The latest experimental project from Kent, Ohio–based interdisciplinary studio DesignLabWorkshop is a 3D-printed pavilion that incorporates smart technologies, like light sensors and photovoltaics, to track and record the sun’s exposure throughout the day.
Called the Solar Bytes Pavilion, the structure comprises 94 modules, or “bytes,” that each contain an integrated solar-powered LED, solar panel, and light sensor that work independently to store energy. Each module uses its stored solar energy to glow at night for different lengths of time based on how much solar exposure each cell received during the day, tracking the sun’s daily travel from east to west by the half-hour. But inconsistent environmental conditions throughout the day result in a varied lighting pattern at night. For example, if the morning is clear and the afternoon is cloudy, the pavilion’s east side would illuminate for a longer period of time than would the west side.
The bytes are digitally designed and fabricated building blocks that were 3D printed with a DOHLE hand welding extruder, the Mini CS, attached to a six-axis robotic arm using fused deposition modeling technology at the Robotic Fabrication Lab at Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED). The modules are made of translucent plastic shells, which allow the structure to filter sunlight during the day and to glow at night. Interlocking, snap-fit joints connect the bytes and enhance their illuminating effect by reducing the visual divisions between each block and supporting the pavilion’s arch.
DesignLabWorkshop founder and associate professor at Kent State University's CAED Brian Peters, Assoc. AIA—who won a 2014 ARCHITECT R+D Award for his 3D-printed clay bricks, Building Bytes—says potential applications for his latest project include façades, canopies, and other urban infrastructure.
The solar pavilion was installed temporarily last fall in downtown Cleveland during the city's Ingenuity Fest. Peters says he is looking for other locations to display it this spring or summer.
Check out DesignLabWorkshop's Building Bytes project here.