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Fog Harvesting textile architecture

Award category
Solutions for the co-evolution of built environment and nature
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS : concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
Fog Harvesting textile architecture
Full concept/idea title
Development of smart meshes enhancing the harvesting system to an efficient nature-based solution
In a scenario of unpredictable water provision, Fog harvesting represents an alternative solution to face the hydric crisis, in fact this system can collect water from air. A fog collector is a passive, low maintenance, and sustainable system; the aim of the research is to improve its efficiency. By addressing such challenge, there is an opportunity to optimize the technical aspects of the device and integrate many other functions and new fields of applications, like façades in building sector.
Where is your concept/idea being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU?
Via Giuseppe Ponzio, 31, 20133 Milano MI, Italia
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea
In order to preserve global water supplies and relieve the stress upon conventional and over-exploited fresh water source, fog and dew harvesting devices stand as a promising yet relatively unexplored solution. Due to vertical development of these devices their potential use of architectural façade is also under consider, while the increasing air pollutants arouse the need of some innovative architectural skin might integrate multiple protection for human well-being. As matter of fact, in construction field, façade renewal with a membrane filter, that absorbs pollutants, cleans the air and at the same time collects water, can be studied and developed in order to optimize solutions for specific climate and functionalities. This technology, taking advantage of the more adapt smart textile, can be used in building and living applications, in order to make constructions water self-sufficient and achieve Net Zero Energy Buildings. Some areas of the world are characterized by intense fogs, defined oasis de niebla. Some of them are located in the most critical hydric conditions areas, while others in territories that will face this hydric struggle in the next years, due to climatic changes and anthropic demand. Since ancient times, in these oases we can see the development of several techniques to exploit the phenomenon and produce water, these fog collectors are called atrapaniebla. They are a rudimental tensile-textile structure made of a mesh and supporting poles and cables. Actually all the existing project are just elemental structures able to collect water in difficult conditions. The objective is to develop some tests, both in lab and on site, to get some datas useful to guide the design and then the production of the fog collector mesh. Once obtain the optimal mesh, in a further research it can be integrated in a smart façade in building sector.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of sustainability and how these would be met
Fog collection is itself a sustainable source of water, therefore must be spread worldwide, but it needs some improvements to reach its optimal exploitation. As means to reach the most performative fog water collection is essential the development of smart fog collectors, so the collecting mesh. Fog collection projects are sustainable in many ways: First they can provide with fresh water many arid regions that are struggling for hydric supply. Often natural water resources are over-exploited, and their extreme exploitation can cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem.  Nowadays, projects of fog collectors are mainly plastic based, their production requires a lot of non-renewable resources, moreover their use can release micro-plastics that are released in water collected, on top of that, the majority of them cannot be recycled. One of the objective is turn the mesh to a nature-based production, for these reason natural fibers and waxes needs to be investigated. Therefore, regarding the mesh there is a double challenge, the first refers to the pattern and the second to the materials. In fact, the objective is to find the right balance between hydrophobic and hydrophilic filaments, taking advantage of natural materials. As a means to reach this some test must be carried out to understand the response of these mew materials in relation to high humidity, solar radiation and wind speed contexts. Moreover it's important to study bio-mimetics systems, as means to understand the behavior of the fog oases endemic spices. Another aspect to take into account are the costs, in fact, if the most optimal mesh is applied for fog collection purposes way less structures will be produced to reach the demand of water, and therefore less food print, less work and mainteinance will be required. Moreover the application of an autonomous device eliminates the need of water abstraction, pumping and transportation. Socially it can make villages self-sufficient.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met
The project aims to explore also aesthetical aspects of mesh design and its application in façade design, with the goal of identifying and discussing parameters. These parameters can be used to develop building products for architectural application based on aesthetical preferences. Discussing what we understand as aesthetically pleasing, beautiful or harmonious, is perceived as a relevant aspect to consider in our quest for the design of human centered buildings and cities. These topics have been neglected, due to their inherent subjectivity. However, but substantial research on user interaction and comfort has shown that it is possible to address personal perceptions and systematically develop relevant indicators to inform the design process. Moreover, these aspects are at the very core of current design waves. Furthermore, acceptance from architects and façade designers is often cited as a common barrier for the integration of new technologies in the built environment; technologies that are mature enough and could help mitigate the environmental issues we currently face, as for instance fog harvesting. Therefore, guidelines for the development of building products for “architectural application” address this situation by promoting the development of “aesthetically pleasing” products and components, especially in the case of façade applications, given that these components irrevocably impact the appearance of buildings. It is important to underline that the application of for harvesting mesh on a façade skin must always meet the requirements of the users, the function of the inner spaces and of course the environmental conditions. The proposed smart façade will be able to change its color and shape, in terms of orientation and dimension, depending on how much light is requested inside, the direction of the winds and the position of the sun during the day. Therefore this façade it's a chameleon like device, who can adapt easily to requests and conditions.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion and how these would be been met
Water scarcity often correlates to worse living conditions. Hydric struggle is becoming increasingly a worldwide preoccupation giving the fast growth rates of populations in already water-stressed regions, and even in territories that will face this crisis in the next years, due to climatic changes and anthropic demand. Absence of water or difficult accessibility to it, in terms of cost or location, affects health and agriculture, so food security. Moreover, populations located in extreme territories are often dependent on others regions for water supplies. Today, concerns over how changes in the environment and climate might affect migration have been growing. It is intuitive to link impacts of climate change, water scarcity, and droughts to migration. Migration that is involuntary, unsafe and poorly managed can have negative impacts through increased vulnerabilities, greater pressures on natural resources, including water resources, and lead to tensions between migrants and host communities. Women play a major role in domestic water management in areas where safe water and drainage are not available in the house. The water surplus, obtain with a fog harvesting system, can have a positive social impact other than the rather obvious economic one. Nowadays women have the burden to walk long distances to get water for their households. Young girls have similar roles, and most of them don't have time to go to school, with the consequent generation of gender unbalance. The extra water supply to the village can alleviate pressure not only in the existing groundwater sources but also on the female gender, allowing for a different social mechanic to emerge and for new opportunities. Moreover, often this the aquirable water is contaminated, its use increments disease spread in territories with a fragile health situation. In this scenario, fog collection can be an opportunity to make resilient many communities, providing them of a clean and independent source of water.
Please explain the innovative character of your concept/ idea
As means to reach an optimal fog water collection is essential the development of smart catchers. Fog collectors are composed by a mesh and the supporting structure, this research's aim is to improve both of them, enhancing the harvesting system to an efficient nature-based solution. Nowadays the majority of fog harvesting systems are developed just to an elemental stage and their design didn't improve much since first pre-Columbian installations. Starting from the mesh, the raschel is the textile that has been used in fog collection projects worldwide until now. This is not due to its good performance, instead because it is cheap and easy to find, in agricultural trade. Moreover, Raschel mesh's projects requires high maintenance because it gets broken easily. The objective is to design the optimal collecting mesh, in order to do that it's essential to understand which are the properties of the more performative meshes, in terms of warp, weft and materials. Moreover the meshes used until now are plastic based, the objective it's to shift this product to a nature-based solution. This natural aspect refers to both material and structure, applying biomimetic knowledge. As regards the structure, nowadays it's a bi-dimensional collector a that occupies a large food print, and its only function is to collect water. The idea, for a further development, is to integrate this device in building field, making it the integral part of a smart façade system, that can provide human well-being, making a building project self-sustainable. In fact, working in a temporal scale, during winter it function as a water collector and during summer as solar shade; moreover it could help to the users well-being thanks to its properties that purifies air. Generally fog collectors are employed for agricultural purpose, in this case the objective is domestic use of the water collected in the same building that collects it, without the need of transportation and pumping.
Please detail the plans you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea, with a particular attention to the initiatives to be taken before May 2022
The research will be based on the results obtained from testes already developed in Canary Islands in '21. There 10 different meshes have been tested, in order to have an initial idea of the characteristics that a proper mesh should have to collect the major amount of fog water. The same textiles, together with others coming from further researches, will be tested in Lab from July to September '21. The tests require the use of a climatic chamber and a wind tunnel. The first one is crucial to understand the behavior of the mesh for the drop formation, the timing of formation, the distribution on the mesh of the droplets and their dimension. Moreover the timing for the releasing of the droplet it's important, in fact if the mesh doesn't permit the flow of the water to the gutter, it will evaporate due to the radiation; on the other hand, if the mesh has really low adhering property the droplets will be detached by the wind. The second test involves the use of the wind tunnel, this is necessary to perceive which is the breaking point of the mesh exposed to high wind speeds. The other test useful to be developed with the wind tunnel is the study of the permeability of the mesh, how much humid wind can pass through the mesh, so how many droplets it can intersect. The results will be evaluated to realize a guideline for the design of the optimal mesh. Furthermore, during winter season the selected meshes will be tested in Milan, in order to get a comparison between the types of fog, orographic/advection (Tenerife) and radiation fog (Milan). Therefore from the results obtained both on site and in the lab the last step is the design a mesh and its production, during spring. Parallelly to the test the biomimetics aspect and its integration with the design is investigated.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Rising Stars Awards more than once in the same category.


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