Monthly Archives: October 2013

Assignment #3: Part 2

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 12.39.28 PMDesign Primer


The goal of my primer is to utilize the traditional technologies of the passive cooling systems gleaned from the case study of stilt houses on Inle Lake in Central Burma to be used in the design of habitations in similar climates. These may include places such as the marshes of Florida and Louisiana or villages along the Amazon in South America. As you can see from the psychometric chart above, there is an overwhelming period of the year that – using traditional passive cooling systems – is still outside of the established range of comfort. The region is extremely humid and often very hot yet the people who live in the city of Yewnghew still manage to live prosperous lives. Though careful analysis I posit that it is because of the unique thermal c0nditions found above the water which the inhabitants’ architecture utilizes that they are able to remain comfortable year-round.

 Design Strategies in Two Seasons

The typology developed in Burma is unique in its capacity to accommodate for two markedly different seasonal climates. The first is that of the dry season, which is (despite its name) very humid and consistently hot and sunny. The monsoon season on the other hand is characterized by constant steady rain and often strong winds. The housing in this region and, more specifically, above the waters of the Inle Lake evolved a unique set of design modifications over hundreds of years to adapt to this particular climate.

stilt house diagram 1-2

Dry Summer Season

(1a) the window design: The hinge of the window rotates upwards rather than outwards, protecting the dwelling from direct sunlight-or radiative heat
(1b) elevation above water-level: the stilt construction allows for evaporative cooling from passing winds greatly reducing the temperature directly below the house
(1c) window placement: windows placed on opposing faces of the structure allow for cross-ventilation

stilt house diagram 1-1Monsoon Season

(2a) the thick natural fiber roof: doubles as a thermal and moisture insulator
(2b) the elevation above water: prevents the flooding that would otherwise occur inland
(2c) the and windows: open up shade the interior from the heavy rains while still providing for ventilation and light penetration.
(2d) [unmarked] the long overhangs and walkways: shield the interior from the strong relentless winds


Climate Consultant.

Erik. “A Boat Tour of Inle Lake – Nyaungshwe, Burma.” Around This World. 22 Oct. 2013. Web.

“Average weather and climate in Myanmar (Burma).” World Weather and Climate Information. 22 Oct. 2013. Web.


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Assignment #3: Part 1

Traditional Climate Control Techniques: Stilt-Houses on the Inle Lake of Central Burma


“Myanmar’s Climate can be described as tropical monsoon climate. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity that makes it sometimes feel quite uncomfortable. The annual average temperature ranges from 22 degrees Celcius (72° Fahrenheit) to 27 degrees Celcius (81° Fahrenheit) year-round.” (World Weather…)

Experiencing dry and rainy seasons annually, the climate of Inle Lake is often hot and humid with alternating periods of intense sun and intense rain. With a low annual temperature of 72° F, the inhabitants of Central Burma strive almost exclusively for the loss of excess heat. As you will see below they succeed in doing so using nothing more than passive cooling systems.

Architectural Adaptations

stilt house diagram dry season

stilt house diagram monsoon


The photo on the left was taken in the city of Yewnghew, home to its own traditional building typography of the stilt-house. (Click here to see more photos of Inle Lake stilt-houses.) Ultimately, this arose from its particular set of environmental circumstances and climactic conditions. The lake is fairly shallow and provides much of the villagers’ food in the form of hydroponic gardens. To adapt to the modestly formidable climate, inhabitants have built their dwellings above the water supported by long pillions into the lake bed. As you can see in the diagrams, this allows for greater air circulation beneath and through the structures as well as placing them well above the flood waters of the monsoon season.


The water of the lake provides for evaporative cooling as well as acting as a large heat sink, absorbing heat in the day and releasing it during the night. The pitched roofs with long overhangs – traditionally constructed of natural fibers – serve a dual role of diverting rain water during the rainy season and shading windows and walkways from direct sun in the dry season. This compensates for the negative drawback of no shade from trees above. An excellent view of the closed and open windows (the former blocking direct sun and the latter open to allow for air circulation) can be seen in the photo to the above. The building typology of the stilt house can be seen in examples across the globe but each is unique in its evolution around different climates and cultures.


Climate Consultant.

Erik. “A Boat Tour of Inle Lake – Nyaungshwe, Burma.” Around This World. 22 Oct. 2013. Web.

“Average weather and climate in Myanmar (Burma).” World Weather and Climate Information. 22 Oct. 2013. Web.

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“Even though developments in analyzing and simulating the interior environment have revealed the remarkable variability and transiency of that environment, we stubbornly cling to the belief that the envelope supersedes all – acting as a barrier to the exterior, container of the interior and determinant of all extant physical phenomena. Essentially, we privilege that which we know, that which we see, that which matches our image of a permanent and static architecture.” (Addington)

Thermal comfort has long been a driver in the way we think about design. Indeed, many would argue along the lines of the Dahl and Eva article “Hot and Cold,” that design as we know it only came about from the desire to control external thermal conditions. As we read in the Addington article, the 20th century saw the advent of HVAC technologies which were seen as the answer to the loss of efficiency due to optimal working environments. The rapid growth of large scale commercial and office buildings required constant, homeostatic conditions for the uninterrupted flow of business. This too came in response to alternating shifts in the way access to outdoor air was perceived. By the mid 20th century, the mantra “Build tight, Ventilate right.” took precedence over any ideas of outdoor ventilation and access to nature.

a5f10__Omer-Arbel-designrulz-001There has since been a radical response to this lingering line of thought. Biophilic architecture is not only designed with its ultimate impact on the environment in mind but also an increasing emphasis on the relationship between its inhabitants and the surrounding natural environment. The picture to the left is of a project completed in 2010 by Canadian architect Omer Arbel. The home is unique in that every interior room has a corresponding exterior room. The boundaries between these are intentionally implicit in some cases creating a quite stimulating condition of threshold ambiguity. Unlike the cases previously mentioned, this home challenges our idea of a definite thermal envelope. As noted in the readings architecture has long been thought of as the control of the external environment but it is projects like this that blur the lines between landscape and architecture and force us to think about the role of the built environment in an entirely new way.

To paraphrase Bill Sherman in one of his lectures, “The human body is a complex adaptive system and if it is never stressed its resiliency Is diminished over time.” As we’ve learned in lecture and in the readings our skin does not directly sense temperature but rather thermal gain or loss. What this means is that while shifts in the external thermal environment may result in slight discomfort we are rarely in any real danger of bodily harm so long as these shifts are not too drastic or for extended lengths of time. I refer to my previous week’s blog post in which I proposed an extension of our perceived acceptable comfort limits. To prove just how resilient the human body can be, just r-WIM-HOF-ICEMAN-large570look at the case of a Dutch man who holds the Guinness World Record for being fully submersed in ice for 1 hour, 52 minutes and claims to enjoy the physical challenge of subjecting his body to extreme cold. (Sterling)  Though his external body temperature drops to degrees above freezing during his feats, his internal temperature remains constant. This, he offers, is achieved by conscious mental control of his autonomic nervous system (see the TEDx video here). Though he is quite obviously an extreme case, his story provides us with an interesting possibility. What would our world be like, as one could imagine in the case above, if our built environment were designed with little to no regard for thermal control? Or better yet–imagine, perhaps, the opposite; a world in which architectural design returned to focus on thermal and natural systems rather than the stifling hermetically sealed envelope of the past fifty years.


 Addington, Michelle. “Contingent Behaviours.” Energies : New Material Boundaries. ed. Lally, Sean. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley , 2009.

Dahl, Torben and Kristensen T. Eva. “Hot and Cold.” Climate and Architecture. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010.

Sterling, Toby. “Wim Hof, Dutch ‘Iceman,’ Controls Body Through Meditation.” Huffington Post. 22 May 2011. Web.

“Unusual and Unique House Design: 23.2 House by Omer Arbel, Canada.” Interior Design 2014. 3 Sept. 2013. Web

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October 16, 2013 · 11:03 pm

Technology is not THE Answer

There was a point in Western history in which the nascent blooming technology of the 20th century was THE answer to all of our emerging problems and complications associated with an economy and industrial infrastructure that was rapidly expanding. We quickly learned to rely on technologies such as automobiles, artificial lighting, automated machinery and assembly line production. Today, the only thing that has changed is the flavor of technology; we have smartphones to watch our stocks and tell us what the weather is going to be like for the day, advanced computer algorithms to analyze and predict consumer buying trends, and of course there is always “an app for that”. But in an age in which our growing population is putting pressures on our environment and systems, can we rely on the next new thing to bail us out of impending troubles? As our class looked at psychometric charts and through the readings it became clear to me that we have largely lost sight of an incredible potential for positive change: ourselves.

heating graphIn a sense, compared to the rest of the animal kingdom humans are unremarkable creatures . We are like any other organism in that we have the capacity to adapt to changing environmental conditions. However, of recent we have become increasingly complacent to be totally dependent on technology to function in the modern world. One of the best examples of this that came up in class is our ability to change external thermal conditions. We hyper-regulate our external conditions, creating an artificial state conducive to consistent, perfect homeostasis. This is especially true of developed nations in which well lit,  air conditioned buildings are the norm. This has not always been the case as you can see from the graph to the left which outlines the past 2000 years of heating and cooling technologies.

graphThe point I’m trying to make is that humans have existed for thousands of years depending on our natural bio-mechanisms to keep ourselves alive in a constantly changing thermal environment. To the right is a psychometric graph with a bounded box outlining our “comfort zone” relative to humidity and temperature. In the past half century this box has been getting smaller and smaller. I challenge that rather than changing our external environment we can change ourselves and our acceptable definition of “comfort” to displace some of the negative consequences of keeping our buildings within such a small window. We can suppress our urge to automatically start looking for some expensive new application of technology to make heating and cooling more efficient for the alternative of a sweater. Another example of human behavior change which could trump any technology can be found every time you use the restroom. It’s common practice to wash one’s hands after using the facility and proceed to either dry your hands on paper towels or use an electric hand dryer. In the US, the average person consumes about 749 pounds of paper every year, adding up to 187 billion pounds for the entire population. (Martin) One way we could make a dent in this waste would be to forego these two “technologies” altogether and simply use our trousers. A simple change in our behavior could cut out thousands of tons of unnecessary waste from our landfills from the paper towels, packaging of new hand dryers and paper towels and the hand dryers and dispensers themselves when they have come to the end of their lifespan and ultimately get thrown away. The simple solution is often the best.

In conclusion, we need to think of technology is not an ends but rather a means. What needs to happen is not an external change to technology but rather a change in the way we, as human, behave and expect. As David F. Nobel stated in the Lechner reading, “There are no technological promises, only human ones, and social progress must not be reduced to, or confused with, mere technological progress.” In the end technology is only as useful and efficient as the complete human system it is inserted within. Our cultural habit to look to technology as our first as our only solution to a problem as related in the Moe reading as the “Machine Mentality” should be shifted to a more  practical human mentality. Technology, therefore, should be thought of as AN answer rather than THE answer. 


Lechner, Norbert. Heating, Cooling, Lighting : Design Methods for Architects. New York: Wiley, 1991.

Martin, Sam. “Paper Chase.” Ecology. 9 Oct. 2013. Web.

Moe, Kiel. Thermally Active Surfaces In Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

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Assignment #2 Precident

The East Coast Greenway:

The East Coast Greenway is the nation’s most ambitious long-distance urban trail project.   By connecting existing and planned shared-use trails, a continuous, traffic-free route is being formed, serving self-powered users of all abilities and ages. 3,000 miles long, the Greenway links Calais, Maine at the Canadian border with Key West, Florida. Alternate routes will add another 2,000 miles to the ECG trail system. (

This project, started in November of 1991, provides hundreds of cities along the Atlantic shore region with an inviting place to experience nature and connect with other members of the  community. In addition to acting as a linear park, the Greenway provides those within access a safe route to commute, as the trail doesn’t run alongside street traffic. As for the composition of the trail, the website describes it as, “A linear park [that] will be entirely on public right-of-way, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths, and pathways along highway corridors.” Though it does not exclusively utilize converted rails as my project proposal did, the project informed my design by confirming that it would not fall into one of the biggest follies that ambitious public works projects often face: apathy. While the health benefits of trail use and exercise are widely publicized, this precedent provided me with the proof that the biggest driver in my proposed system change would likely work as the Greenway had. What it relied on most was the assumption that the public desire to use a long-distance trail network would be there in the first place.

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Assignment #2: System Diagram for Proposed Bike Infrastructure

assignment 2 diagram 1

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October 1, 2013 · 3:16 pm

Airline fare analysis: comparing cost per mile

an interesting source on airfare costs per mile

Rome2rio Blog

NB: A version of this blog post first appeared as a special guest post on Tnooz.

As we continue to improve the Rome2rio multi-modal search technology, we are starting to integrate pricing data into the system to help make sensible routing decisions and better inform our users. After all, price is an important part of the decision process when choosing between routes or modes of transport.

Prices for trains, buses, ferries and taxis tend to be more constant than airfares, which fluctuate with supply and demand. However, airfares do follow certain obvious trends; longer flights cost more, and some airlines are more expensive per mile flown than others.

We decided to model airfares using some simple parameters. To do this, we examined the economy class airfares displayed by Rome2rio to users over the past 4 months, totalling some 1,780,832 price points. We grouped the airfares by distance and selected…

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