Princeton University student Georgian Baronian is examining how large-scale structures can benefit from using water on the roof as a thermal insulator and solar reflector. She was presented with her Global LafargeHolcim Awards Ideas prize by Roland Köhler, Chairman of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation and Maria Atkinson, founding CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, and member of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation.
Georgina Baronian had already won the LafargeHolcim Awards Next Generation 1st prize in North America for her project that aims to find how to reduce the energy load of cooling “Big Box” structures such as warehouses. The Global LafargeHolcim Awards jury then selected three of the 40 Acknowledgement and Next Generation prize-winning projects from the regional phase of the competition to receive LafargeHolcim Awards Ideas prizes. “We felt that they offer exciting and novel ideas, even within proposals that are not yet fully developed,” said jury head Alejandro Aravena. The prizes were awarded ex aequo to Baronian’s project “Cooling Roof” as well as to “Refrigerating Jar” in Ghana and “Territorial Figure” in Argentina.
“Cooling Roof” considers the relationship between energy infrastructures and the spaces they serve, developing an integrated solution that not only engenders efficiencies, but also proposes a new methodology for the construction of atmosphere. By creating a climatic device that modifies both interior comfort and spatial experience, her proposal seeks to conceptualize a new way of producing sustainable building systems – based on the evaporative cooling properties of water. The project through its use of radiant cooling (which does not alter air temperature but modifies its perception) also questions our assumptions of how comfort is created and indeed what comfort is.
Since winning selection by the jury in March, Baronian has developed a full-scale mock-up of the evaporative roof prototype. Installed at the Princeton University School of Architecture in May 2018, the mock-up takes the form of a circular pavilion 7m in diameter that was exhibited on the campus for one month. The pavilion itself is entirely unclosed, consisting only of an elevated roof – the air underneath the roof is the same temperature as its outdoor surroundings. Cooling is possible through the principle of radiative heat exchange between the human body and a (cool) surface, demonstrating a new paradigm through which to understand the production of thermal conditioning and proposing a building-without-walls model for generating ‘interior’ climate.