by Jincy IypeSep 14, 2020
“People refuse to accept air pollution and climate change as an imminent problem, even when so closely blanketed by it. It is vital to become proactive about making change and setting up dialogues that address ways to undo these damages, regardless of scale and setting,” says architect, biomimetic designer, researcher and founder of India-based Carbon Craft Design, Tejas Sidnal, in an exclusive conversation with STIR about his latest design concept, centred on creating materials and designs from upcycled carbon emissions, The Reverse Chimney Pavilion.
After reveling in the success of their first manifested project Carbon Tile, made from upcycled carbon emissions, Carbon Craft Design shares their latest innovative concept that seeks to amplify conversations around climate change, along with their ethos of creating with upcycled carbon waste. With the Reverse Chimney Pavilion, they dream bigger and get even more inclusive, in terms of scale and impact.
What does it do? Exactly what its name suggests – Carbon Craft Design takes the most common symbol of air pollution, a chimney, and back-pedals its function – instead of throwing out toxic air, it behaves in reverse by sucking in air pollutants and treating it, belching out fresh, clean air. Still in its research and development stage, the drawing board project aims to achieve clean air and therefore cleaner cities, share Sidnal and Kishor Avhad, lead designer, Carbon Craft Design.
Jincy Iype (JI): This concept seems like a quest for a more inclusive space to discuss climate change and of course, your startup’s crux, of turning carbon emissions into functional designs. How did the idea come about?
Tejas Sidnal (TS): Humanity has reached mammoth capabilities, especially post Industrial Revolution, which encouraged migration toward prospering cities, which resulted in excessive use of fossil fuels and in turn, vast amounts of air pollution. In a world that has become more connected and accessible than ever before, we aim to make a statement that climate change can be reversed if we solve this problem together as a diverse community.
When we Google air pollution, the first thing we see is a chimney. We played on the symbolism and imagined a chimney which does not give out air pollutants, but instead, takes it in; the transformation of this idea is what we call the Reverse Chimney Pavilion.
Kishor Avhad (KA): We also wanted to inculcate a process of initiating dialogues about going green, especially in the design and building community. The spaces within and around the pavilion are envisioned as a platform that will enable and host these much needed conversations.
JI: Please elaborate on the design of the Reverse Chimney Pavilion. What it is inspired by and what technologies prompt its workings?
TS: Firstly, the pavilion’s design must be efficient in capturing air, as the rest of the process depends on that. We looked out for inspiration from nature and architecture. We have sought to mimic the traditional wind catchers found in ancient architecture of Arab and Egyptian countries and the structural stability of clam shell patterns.
KA: Wind catchers were typically erected to combat arid weather by passive cooling and promote ventilation naturally. They are built tall with openings near the top that bring in wind, strategically located and oriented towards the predominant wind direction; as it travels down the tower’s neck, which often has arrays of filters, the air cools down because of difference in air pressure. That is reflected in the shape of the pavilion as well, which also has a long neck with angled openings on top, to allow air to flow freely, optimising the energy consumption.
TS: This air will pass through a system similar to an HVAC unit, which basically sucks in the air from outside, passes it through filters, and blows out conditioned air. We aim to implement filter less pollutant capturing technology based on ESP (Electrostatic precipitator), which is a filtration device that removes fine particles like dust and smoke, from flowing gas. This will give us over 90 per cent treated, pure air, in theory.
JI: Can you tell us more about the primary material used in the construction?
TS: In nature, there is no concept of waste. There is only transformation of resources from one form to another. This led us to develop a unique building material that is made using carbon emissions as a raw material, much like how we created the Carbon Tile. This would help us build a carbon negative pavilion to stand as proof of this new intervention, for future innovations in the construction domain.
KA: In a nutshell, the raw material will consist of a binding medium, reinforcement, and of course carbon, which we collect from various pyrolysis based factories (the pavilion will eventually act as a collector too), which is then extracted and converted to slurry and dry mixes. These are combined with waste marble chips and binder to make them stronger, similar to a concrete mix which can be poured into molds or pre cast into sections and fused on site to build the entire structure.
JI: You mentioned the clam shell pattern before. How and why has that been replicated in the design?
KA: After we came up with a basic skeleton of the pavilion, we found that the entire structure is going to be heavy because the raw material has to have reinforcements such as bars or chips, and other binders for strength. We also found out through wind analysis, diagrams and mock tests that the wind was being harsh on particular façades.
To combat that and to give the structure added stability in its materiality itself, without depending on external buttresses or hefty foundations, the base was made wider than the top. To augment this, we studied clam shell patterns, which basically have a repeated folded fan structure, and has more structural stability. Imagine putting something heavy on a flat sheet of cardboard as opposed to a folded piece – which one would be able to resist the weight better? This is what the clam shell pattern provides to the form, added stability without external support, along with a far more interesting, origami façade texture.
JI: How does the Reverse Chimney Pavilion facilitate conversations about reducing carbon emissions, air pollution and climate change? How does its design up this discourse, after the success of Carbon Tile?
TS: Apart from it being an air filtration system, we thought that it could manifest as a greater purpose. We plan to design exhibition spaces around and within it, where dialogues can sprout and forums can be held. Imagine coming across one of these when you visit a city, you are automatically drawn toward it and want to know what it is, what it does, how it does it.
The Pavilion itself acts as an example of functional, sustainable design. The Carbon Tile does that as a way of consumption, while the Pavilion will do that on an architectural scale, and bring together a community of people conversing and sharing ideas, or simply to enjoy fresh air with their loved ones.
JI: In the context of creating and building, what are your thoughts about sustainable design, and what is the primal factor in achieving it in one’s creation?
TS: Creating sustainable design and architecture certainly require extensive research into the development and production process, also keeping in mind the life cycle of the material and product. We can’t keep making things mindlessly, that process has done too much damage to the planet and to the life forms inhabiting it.
JI: Arguably the most important question – where will these pop up and will we see them built soon?
TS: Our initial thoughts of placing these prototypes for maximum impact were in Delhi and Dubai… We are currently doing more research and tests, and will proceed to looking for investors, and bring it to reality. We are yet to conduct live experiments and are sure to find more factors that contribute to the design or take away from it – lots more to explore!