Carnegie Mellon University
April 08, 2015

Climate Ribbon

Climate Ribbon

Rendering of Solar Data

Downtown Miami's 5.4-million-gross-square-foot mixed-use Brickell City Centre, slated to open in phases at the end of 2015 into 2016, wanted an innovative design — an open-air feel for its shoppers, despite Miami's heat and rain. Anne Cotter (A'86) brought in Carnegie Mellon University to help consult on its environmental and sustainable design.

renderingCotter is vice president at Arquitectonica, the architecture firm that designed Brickell City Centre and the thousand-foot long Climate Ribbon™ made of glass, steel and fabric, which flows along the top of the retail concourse to keep pedestrians comfortable. 

"It provides shading from the sun while also allowing views of the sky; it is glazed to protect pedestrians from rain and designed to collect an estimated 5 million gallons of rain water annually that sheets off into cisterns to irrigate all the landscaping. It is shaped as if lifted by a breeze while modeled to encourage Miami's prevailing breezes to flow through the concourse," Cotter said. The analysis and detailed design was done in collaboration with Paris-based Hugh Dutton Associates, one of a few international partners on this project.

And as the project moved from concept to approval in 2011, Swire Properties, the owner and developer, asked Arquitectonica to reach out to a university that focused on sustainability design.

"The goal for the academic outreach, which is not typical for real estate development, was to open up the discussion to ideas that would benefit the project and academia as a forum for collaborative research," Cotter said.

renderingCotter, an alumna of the School of Architecture, knew well the university's commitment to sustainability, environmental design and building performance.

"A few years before working on this project, I met up with Steve Lee, head of the School of Architecture, and knew his and CMU's commitment to sustainability was as strong as ever," Cotter said.

In fact, CMU's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation was established in 2012 to leverage the expertise of more than 100 faculty and researchers across campus to improve energy efficiency, expand the mix of energy sources in a clean reliable, affordable and sustainable way, and create innovations in energy technologies, regulations and policies.

Lee connected Cotter with then-assistant professor Dale Clifford, who was working with graduate students as a part of the Master of Tangible Interaction Design program founded by Professor Marc Gross.

Clifford found the project to be a natural fit.

"In my coursework, students often partner with professional designers on real projects. We have the opportunity to add value to creative architectural offices that are interested in pushing the envelope in terms of art, design and technology," Clifford said.

Clifford and his students came up with multiple ideas to benefit Brickell City Centre — "solar petals" that would curl when they absorbed a targeted amount of solar energy, "pixel tiles" that can help stabilize temperature by changing their opacity and thermal storage, and "stalks" that respond to local wind patterns, generate electricity and light up while doing so.

Cotter said the design options the CMU team proposed for Brickell City Centre were breaking new ground for integrating new technologies into large-scale building developments. 

"The decisions were focused on the long-term life of the project as it evolves, impacts and integrates with the surrounding neighborhood," Cotter said.

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