OA_sys: Operative Aclimatic System

Project Credits: Collaboration with Jeffrey Gaines (UC Berkeley)

Photo Credits: team

This conceptual proposal seeks to provide a long term, self-sustainable habitat for astronomy researchers working on the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), located on the Chajnantor plain of San Pedro de Atacama. Extreme environmental conditions at the site require an architectural solution that mitigates below-freezing temperatures and high levels of direct solar exposure. The remote location of the array necessitates the provision for a certain amount of self-sustainability in terms of energy generation, food production, and water use.

The proposed system stems from research and material studies in the first part of the concept development focused on mediating the extreme environment of the Atacama desert. The research focused on capturing and controlling the consistently intense solar radiation present at the site. One element examines the broad potential of salt, an abundant resource in the region, as a building component providing heat storage or electricity production. The second focuses on developing a continuous, layered structural skin that mediates light and heat based on diurnal variation. The initial design proposes a system of membranes that controls environmental factors including light and humidity. It works in conjunction with solar salt ponds that capture sunlight as usable heat to be stored in a salt heat sink or converted into electricity.