In collaboration with Italian architect Barbara Berni, this mixed-use residential project was conceived as a large-scale, green building development on nearly 12 acres in the province of Caserta in southern Italy. The design and site plan, reflecting a direct response to the needs of this tightly knit community in which environmental regulations are becoming increasingly strict, is intended to be sustainable and improve its inhabitants’ comfort and standard of living.
Thirteen buildings are planned to be constructed on the site, while preserving existing public amenities and green areas. Commercial and retail spaces on the ground floors of each building would enhance the social life of the residents, creating opportunities for interaction based on shopping and business. This project is also intended to show how developers with private patronage can: a) commission buildings of high quality and adopt innovative technologies and design guidelines; and b) demonstrate the way they are becoming conscious of how inhabitants of new buildings are more educated and sensitive to sustainable architecture benefits and issues.
Each building has 20 units, equally distributed, on five floors -- four 2&3-bedroom units on each floor - with ground floors used as commercial spaces and a lobby. Underground parking garages serve each building and connect to the ground floor level with a ramp. Seismic resistant steel structure: given the active seismic condition of the area, the buildings’ steel frame construction is designed to guard against damage and related consequences in case of earthquake. The total collapse of steel-framed buildings appears to be an extremely rare event, even when large earthquakes are involved.
Because of the number of buildings slated for the site, and with an eye toward cost-effectiveness and design cohesion, each building is a repetition of the same core design, varying only in façade materials (Corten steel, zinc and vertical garden details are projected) as well as in architectural details. One such detail is a system of light panels (attached perpendicularly to the facades) which change pattern in the facades and illuminate at night through solar power, creating a dramatic, rhythmic visual effect at dark.
Ground floor plan
The vertical gardens follow the example of other architectural applications of this living, green façade, such as French botanist Patrick Blanc’s designs, Jean Nouvel’s Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and the recent indoor application in the Harmony Atrium at Lincoln Center in New York, where its purpose is cited as a “theatrical garden,” featuring 20-foot-high walls of plants and cascades of falling water. Another goal for this project is to integrate and extend the existing greenspace, making sure to give back twofold in green where the built space has been claimed. Contemporary architecture is evolving more and more to minimize its footprint on existing landscapes, where possible. In this sense, even the aforementioned vertical gardens would act as an extension, albeit abstract, to the existing landscape.
Both front and back main facades of the building are articulated (patterned) in a grid of large balconies where the sunlight is regulated by adjustable, brise-soleil sliding panels. As each resident adjusts his own brise-soleil in response to light needs or preference, the result is a continuously changing, random pattern on the facades. Also, the steel frame structure is partially extended in elevation at the roof line in order to accentuate the height of the building, without adding to it in volume.
Continuous glass surfaces wrap the perimeters of the entire ground (commercial) floors, emphasizing the suspended effect of the buildings, which are supported by pilotis. This suspension design creates recessed porticos as a sheltered gathering place for the residents and their community – recalling a traditional feature of Italian architecture. The glass surface is visually interrupted by the stark element of a sculptural, metal folding-gate system that at night – after business hours – encloses its perimeter for security. The visual result is of an architectural screen with a natural pattern that it is also used as a decorative element in the common areas of the building.
In order to achieve the best level of comfortable living at an effective cost, this green building project is intended to be as self-sufficient as possible in energy and water savings, featuring also passive cooling and natural climatization, to single out two distinctive categories:
· Empowering the “passive” performance (or energy behaviour) of the building creates a natural ventilation, via brise-soleil and insulated wall/roof systems;
· Adopting high-performance energy and heating systems such as solar panels (photovoltaic and solar thermal panels placed on the roof).
Other key features are:
· A natural ventilation chimney by the stairwell, designed to extract outside air and pass it through the building while cooling at ground-floor level;
· A veranda serra (greenhouse balcony) system to reduce the quantity of heat generated by the heating system during the winter months, supported by solar screens that control any direct irradiation and outside thermal exposure of the rooms during summer months;
· A rainwater recovery collection system which recycles also grey water;
· An insulated façade and roof system also using the aforementioned vertical garden application for lower energy consumption;
· Energy efficiency approaches to building orientation and passive solar design;
· Adjustable, sliding brise-soleil sunscreen panel systems (sun-louvers) designed to allow the infiltration of light – while being comfortably regulated from within;
· Adjustable ventilation louvers by the building lobby’s entrance and stairwell.