Major conceptual design competition to design retrofitted sustainable facades to inefficient tower blocks to ensure compliance with NYC’s new Green New Deal goals.

The challenge addresses how to transform New York City’s existing high-rise office buildings so they are on the city’s roadmap to carbon neutrality. The brief wasto use a cladding solution to half the building’s energy consumption, bring daylight deeper into the building and give better access to the outside.

The winning scheme, called Second Skin, employs the concept of an ‘adaptive net’ facade; creating a habitable area within a highly efficient, simple, regular cladding system. The ‘adaptive net’ allows us as engineers to respond to the specifics of the building’s locale; protect against seasonal environmental conditions; optimise views and introduce natural greening; all enhancing occupants’ wellness.

A system of external shading/reflector devices was developed to provide shade, reduce glare, increasing the quality of daylighting and improving the usable area by 20%, whilst preserving views out.

Through thermal modelling we determined that this concept (combined with an improvement in the efficiency of M&E equipment), would offer a 50% reduction in carbon emissions as well as offer an embodied carbon offset after only four years. The proposed planting and vegetation will respond to light, heat, humidity and seasonal variations, and the baseline palette will be chosen to increase biodiversity and ecological resilience. The team were commended for a solution that was simple, with applicability to a wide range of buildings, cost effective, and adaptive, so it can be tailored to suit different environments and orientations. It is the aim that because of the facade’s flexibility, it could be rolled out as a solution across the US.

We were also commended for considering the carbon impact of the system over its lifecycle and ensure that it makes a net positive contribution though its application; the design could be developed further to facilitate de- construction, and re-use.

New York, US