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Italian designers envision 3D printed UAE project using local sand

May 10, 2021
real estate

Barberio Colella Architetti, an architectural and research firm based in Italy, has envisioned a 3D printed vault space within its ambitious Urban Dunes project in Abu Dhabi as an urban microclimate in the UAE, where harsh conditions in some months reduce external activities.

Designed to span 1,000 sq m, the Urban Dunes project's sculptural, sand dune-like form is integrated with iconic elements such as mashrabiya, vaulted spaces, water basins, fountains and palms.

This vault is composed of several stereotomic blocks made of 3D printed sandstone, using the local sand as a primary material.

Through this sustainable solution, the Italian group along with architect Angelo Figliola, aim to reduce the heat island effect for the extreme climate of Abu Dhabi.

The architectural duo has elaborated a design proposal - that started from the deep awareness of the climatic context of Abu Dhabi's and UAE's traditional architecture, such as elegant vaulted spaces, vernacular shading devices and cold-water basins.

Barberio Colella Architetti said the main architectural idea behind the project was to ideally lift up a thick layer of sand to create an urban 'oasis' which mixes passive and low-tech active systems to maximise the outdoor thermal comfort calculated with the UTCI index.

For adaptability, it has proposed a modular design to fit a variety of spatial settings. The basic module, a square, can be extended to create everything from an L-shaped layout to a courtyard.

Each module would be made from 3D-printed blocks that stack together to create a vault with a thickness of 55 cm, which will help avoid the overheating of the urban space thanks to the high thermal mass of the shell, acting as a main passive strategy, it added.

On the vault, the Italian architects said it is composed of several stereotomic blocks made of 3D printed sandstone, using the local sand as a primary material.

The sand is made solid by using the binder jetting technology, which is capable of fabricating big blocks with a high level of precision, it stated.

The sand is mixed with a heat reflective cool pigments to increase surface reflectance and to reduce surface heat build-up, thus reducing energy consumption through lower cooling requirements.

Barberio Colella Architetti said the space below the vault represents an urban microclimatic space protected from the sun using a vernacular sun shading device, the mashrabiyya, which enhance also the natural ventilation of the space.

'The vaulted spaces below are also optimized for natural cooling with elegant mashrabiya, a type of perforated window screen to enable natural ventilation. The incoming airflow is cooled by the water basins placed around the interior as well as the two waterfall fountains and palm trees in the center. Earth pipes are laid underground to feed water to the fountains and basins,' said a company spokesman.

In fact, the wind meets the perforated surface of the mashrabiyya and boosts its speed due to the Venturi effect, he explained.

This incoming airflow meets and touches cold water basins, spreading a sense of freshness inside the public space, he noted.

Besides, the space under the shell is also naturally ventilated with the use of a low-tech system as the earth pipes and four mini wind catchers are placed by following the CFD analysis, he added.

According to him, the architectural wonder features also two active systems to maximise cooling efforts.

'On one hand, a high-pressure misting system is used to cut the surrounding air temperature (up to - 20 °C) by forcing water via a high-pressure pump producing a micro-fine mist. While on the other hand, the shell is cooled through a network of tubing through which flows a cooling fluid,' he stated.

'The constant temperature of the earth can be utilized to passively cool the fluid. By mixing those systems it is possible to reach a UTCI of 26 °C for August (the warmest month in Abu Dhabi) that represents a comfortable thermal perception for an outdoor space,' he added.

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