Ice Cycle: A Case Study in Thermo-Tectonic Performance

This paper presents a case study in building envelope design, the Ice Cycle House, as a practice-based response to the recent proposition made by Alejandro Zaera-Polo that”…previous theories of the building envelope have not been capable of directly relating the technical and physical properties of envelopes to their political, social and psychological effects…” This case study seeks to expand singularly technical definitions of building performance by re-designing two ubiquitous accessory building components – a domestic roof drain and roof vent – as interdependent parts of a dynamic, multi-faceted system. No longer treated as mono-functioning technical accessories, drainage and ventilation functions are here re-distributed and re-purposed to address a range of concerns from the envelope’s “ice-damming” to its expressive facial effects. The latent environmental flux of ice’s phase-change cycle is mobilized to conceptualize a strategy of integration that favors the effectiveness of the whole over the efficiencies of its parts. While the legacy of old notions of efficiency continue to render architecture’s thermal and tectonic performance as a sign of its own technological production, this proposal offers a more responsive and sustainable interface between architecture and the larger material, energy, and human systems that constitute the constructed environment. (By: Matt Burgermaster, New Jersey Institute of Technology)