The House of the Rising Sun: an Architectural Design Inspired by Sunflowers
The carbon-positive building will automatically seek the best orientation towards the sun and integrate new ventilation solutions to adapt to climate change.
One of the challenges of sustainable architecture is undoubtedly energy efficiency. Normally, the use of insulating materials, reflective roofs, and similar solutions are used. One of the most important factors is the orientation of a building, the coveted south orientation, which maximizes the solar radiation received. But what if the orientation were not fixed, what if, in the manner of sunflowers, a building could rotate around itself, following the arc of the sun? Passersby strolling through the Umbria region of Italy are accustomed to the sight of a golden tapestry of sunflowers woven into its rolling hills. With any luck, they will soon also be able to see some curious buildings that mimic these plants in both appearance and function. That's the vision of Japanese architect Koichi Takada, who has come up with an eco-friendly design for the area at the request of Bloomberg Green.
Takada's new buildings are designed to blend in with their surroundings. Not surprisingly, they follow the discipline of biomimicry or biomimetics, which we have often discussed on this page. The centerpiece of the design is the circular, rotating roof comprising a series of petal-shaped solar panels. Integrated light sensors will allow the structure to move autonomously in search of the greatest solar exposure. It is estimated that, through this system, the Sunflower House will produce 40% more energy than conventional fixed solar panels. Surplus energy from the building will be stored in a battery system or diverted to the grid.
However, this is not the only way in which sunflowers have been a source of inspiration. The architect points out that man-made structures often require very wide foundations, as opposed to sunflowers, which require only a thin stem to support a large-diameter flower. This principle has been extrapolated to the final design, which seeks a minimal intervention in the terrain in such a way as to preserve the biodiversity of the environment.
The Sunflower House is a modular design that allows working with two or three floors. This variable height system means that houses can be built with a different number of floors so that the buildings do not shade each other.
Cooler and more water-efficient houses
In addition to the energy aspects already mentioned, the Takada house is designed to maintain cooler interiors. Thus, the cantilevered petal design will cast shade on the rooms below. This factor is of particular importance in view of the increasingly frequent heatwaves affecting the Italian region as a result of climate change. At the same time, an additional rotating system allows the glazed facades to be covered. And because each floor forms a circular structure separate from the floor above and below, the air can flow freely between them.
Finally, the circular, sloping roof not only collects sunlight, but also rainwater. A system of gutters collects rainfall and sends the water to a cistern at the base of the building.
Perhaps the best explanation of the concept is offered by the designer's own words: "We need a kinetic, living architecture that respects the environment while enhancing the wellbeing of the humans who inhabit it." If you want to know more about buildings inspired by nature or based on biomaterials, we recommend this article about living architecture or baubotanik or this one about the use of fungi in construction or mycotecture. Both cases are good examples of the journey towards sustainable architecture.
Images: Koichi Takada Architects