Cascade park urban villas

2005 Coates design
Roanoke Virginia USA

The Coates office design for the cradle to cradle competition.

Project description

This design utilizes timeless passive solar strategies by shielding unwanted summer sun and absorbing heat from low
winter sun through its thermal mass. Active solar collection provides the main source of necessary electrical energy.
The core extends vertically, clad with a super-conductive photosynthetic plasma cell skin that is able to generate more
electrical voltage per area than contemporary photovoltaics. Building on current research involving extracted spinach protein,
this living skin is photosynthetic and phototropic it grows and follows the path of the sun, generating electricity in excess
of single family needs. excess power is distributed to neighboring homes and street lighting infrastructure.

Earth acts as a primary insulator and reduces building material use. Rapidly renewable soy-foam wall panels offer superior
hermal resistance with minimal embodied energy. Reconstituted concrete with striated polymer mesh reinforcement efficiently
supports the open building plan

This design integrates building with landscape, a vegetated roof system collects and filters stormwater into the
building core. The core collects and supplies all household plumbing elements contained within it.
Black and grey water are released to a primary septic tank below the core and eventually released as effluent to the "living garden".


Cradle to cradle elements

The building is constructed as a cold concrete structure, insulated with layers of earth on the roof and soy panel insulation.
Concrete itself is a material that is easily recycled into new concrete which is very common in building practice for economical reasons.
This 'reconstitution' in fact means that old concrete is replacing the stones in the new concrete mixture.
New cement and sand is still required to produce this new concrete so only partial recycling is possible.
On the other hand there is still more new concrete applied in buildings than the amount available for recycling.
So new concrete is not 100% recylced, but virtually all old concrete is recycled.
A key requirement for this recycling is that the concrete is not mixed with other materials like brick.
This raises some questions for the use of the polymer reenforcement, is it still possible to seperate it from the concrete?

The fact that the insulation is placed on the inside of the construction removes the need for waterproofing the insulation.
This makes it a lot easier to make the panels fully bio degradable. For this reason the insulation can be easily removed
from the structure and disposed into nature.

The layer of earth on top of the building provides additional insulation against colt and heat.
Although the claim for a reduction in insulative materials is a legitimate argument, the weight that is
placed on the building structure increases, which will most likely result in an increased use of constructive materials.

The photovoltaics are made of vegetable resources. If they can be removed from the other materials effectively there will be a
great reduction metallic materials that are currently used in solar panels.

Water & energy
A large photovoltic panel provides electric energy for the building. Excessive energy is shared with surrounding houses in the neighborhood.
It still remains unknown how tap water and the interior space is heated. The large windows are shielded from the summer sun but
will loose a lot of energy during winter at the same time. The stated thermal mass to store passive solar energy in winter does not result in any
energy reduction It is a buffer which reduces temperature fluctuation. The house keeps warm during the evening which saves energy,
but will need more energy in the morning to warm up. The only advantage of the thermal mass is a cooler daytime air temperature in summer,
this however is already provided for by the canopy.

Rainwater is collected on the roof and and used as tab water. The waste water is filtered in a septic tank and released in the garden where
it is used as nutrition and irrigation.Since this is not a closed cycle the building will stay depended on the supplied rainwater.



The building is a clear example of Cradle to Cradle; energy is not an issue as long as it is produced sustainable and in an abundance.
A large solar collector provides in an abundance of electrical energy and rainwater is collected, used and filtered on site.
The loss of heat through the large glass facade however makes no attempt to reduce any energy use.
The same can be seen in the material use. All materials can be seperated and recycled, but the recycling process of all the glass and
concrete will cost a lot of energy. And the content of biodegradable materials is still very low.



  1. Website of the competition entry