Energetic Ecologies: Industry, Adaptation, and The Thermodynamic Paradigm

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Addressing the widespread problem of post-industrial urban decay is imperative for helping our cities become safer, healthier, and more equitable; however, a close look at prevailing methods of intervening in these sites reveals underlying socio-economic, ecological, and long-term energy concerns.

Starting with an abandoned industrial site in Houston as a case study, this thesis offers an alternative approach: re-engaging industrial ruins through the lens of thermodynamics. In developing a low-cost, low-embodied energy public space with high social and ecological value, this project considers the broader implications of biasing the ambient, sensorial properties of energetic exchange in architectural design.

From a thermodynamic perspective, industrial ruins hold immense value -- from the materiality of their structures, to the land they inhabit, to their surrounding urban and ecological contexts. Because of their construction, composition, and formal qualities, post-industrial sites can be extraordinarily thermodynamically active and embedded with energetic potential that can be re-engaged and deployed in a variety of ways.

Detailed analyses of the energetic pre-existences and microclimate of the site lead to development of an integrated structural and material system that calibrates passive ventilation to generate atmospheric zoning. Atmospheres are further articulated using intensive properties like pressure, density, convection, and conduction. At each step, the project is tested and refined using CFD analysis. Conceived as an overlapping network of passively-conditioned public spaces, programming is not pre-determined, but evolves as a function of atmospheric diversity. The formal expression of the project emerges as a synthesis of the material, structural, atmospheric, and energetic qualities of the site.

By integrating non-isolated energy modeling, lessons from systems ecology, and modern analysis tools, the thermodynamic paradigm can not only transform how we conceive of site-specific design solutions for industrial ruins – it has broad implications for how we design and build architecture in our increasingly energy-conscious societies.

Master of Architecture
Architecture, Thermodynamics, Thermodynamic Paradigm, Adaptive Reuse, Adaptation, Atmospheres, Passive, Microclimate, CFD Analysis, Ecology, Energy, Industry, Industrial Ruins, Spolia, Thermodynamic Poche, Concrete, Timbrel Vault, Catalan Vault, Tile Vaulting, Vault, Silo, Bayou, Terracing, Swale, Houston, Deindustrialization, Post-Industrial, Energy, Emergy, Exergy, Intensive Properties, Thermal Mass, Embodied Energy, Life-Cycle Analysis, Material Flow, Evaporative Cooling, Environment, Urban, Construction, Vernacular

Hernandez, Michael S.. "Energetic Ecologies: Industry, Adaptation, and The Thermodynamic Paradigm." (2021) Master’s Thesis, Rice University. https://hdl.handle.net/1911/110478.

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