The Graft Tower is a net plus resource building that provides water, food, and energy for the neighborhood. The program on the ground levels is an epicenter of commercial activity and services to support the light-rail hub. The tower harbors eco-tourism hotel and living units for permanent residents. Construction of the building is unprecedented in its materials and methods. This provides the project with a new language of an interlaced mesh-work of structural columns spiraling into the sky with connecting fingers spreading out to the new plazas below. The structure is literally grown by grafting in-osculate fibers around the basic skeletal frames of the commercial and housing units. As the organic material spreads upward and around the frames, more are brought from off-site and placed by a mobile crane as necessary – the post-fab process. Optimizing the frame’s design for natural ventilation and cooling, we’ve created a twisting tower with each unit’s shape stretching toward the west , as determined by wind dynamics. Water is collected at the bottom of each unit and then dispersed throughout the open framework into the vertical farming. The plants grow sporadically throughout the changing, living? building, as they are able to find water and sunlight.
While living in the apartments, residents maintain and assist the agriculture pieces of the building. One crucial task is to maintain the hydroponic network, which also grows as the building does. This unique multi-purpose mesh work is highlighted in a yellow-green carbon fiber reinforcement. The yellow mesh not only is structural for the skins panels, but distributes water throughout the tower, and manages the temperature of the panels themselves. Condensation that is typical problem in the Puerto Rico environment is managed by the yellow “vascular” system. Certain portions of the vascular system also distribute liquid ethanol, a product of the artificial photosynthesis skin panels, which fuels the energy demands of the building. The faceted skin allows a large variation in the electrochromatic vision panels. The stewardship of the building’s structure and vertical farming is subsidized by the eco-tourism hotel. Residents and visitors access the tower through open vertical and horizontal circulation systems, taking advantage of the island’s winds for cooling and not having to mechanically manage this part of the building’s environment , as typically seen in San Juan vernacular.
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