Introducing a new cycle of architectural eco-infrastructure that promotes the regeneration of local and native plant species within the Valldaura region. Wind vibration energy acts as a platform for new dialogue between ecological systems and human interaction. AmpLeaf is a synthesised smart surface which is integrated into the anatomy of the forest to experiment from within, using energy directly harvested from the ecosystem and its many agents rather than energy from existing power grids.
AmpLeaf: Ecological Resonance
With the rise of a new generation of technologies capable of integration on a nano-level, we, as designers, are able to think about our environments on a different scale and recognize the emergent logics which can be tapped into for experimentation. This project aims to make social impacts on the ecosystem, encouraging birds and animals to gather around targeted flora and fauna native to (or marginalized from) the Valldaura region. The goal is to develop infrastructure that works in sync with existing systems, lessening the disparity between densities of biodiversity in the region and creating a richer and more competitive environment.
Valldaura Self Sufficient Labs
The site occupies an optimal spot for the exploration of biosphere rejuvenation through passive systems. Located in the Collserola National Park, it is one of many sites that have experienced a notable decrease in diversity of plant and animal life due to nearby development. Many studies by CERFA and the Park Consortium have correlated the subdivision and transformation of land with the marginalisation of specific species, their resulting relocation and, in some cases, disappearance from the area.
Through simple, integrated and ecologically sensitive interventions, this project aims to catalyze the slow process of bio-regeneration. Conceptually, it follows four basic pillars of environmental design:
- Environmental Infrastructure: targeting native species of flora and fauna with the purpose of enhancing biological phenomena such as pollination, zoochory (dispersal by seeds), and biotic fertilization
- Passive Energy Systems: applying energy directly back into the environment from which it is derived without the need for external sources. this will lead to the development of a framework for future growth
- Multi-functionality: use of adaptable and flexible tools which can perform different functions depending on input from the immediate context
- Symbiotic Relationships: identifying mutually beneficially ecological advancements for human and bio-life such as increased soil fertility, strengthened phosphorus, carbon and nitrogen cycles, and insect management
Key Terms of Study
- Zoochory (seed dispersal) – involves the dispersal of seeds by the carrying of seeds, fruits and berries by wildlife, including small mammals. There are two subsets of this phenomenon: dispersal by digestion and defecation (Endozoochory), and dispersal on an animal’s exterior (Epizoochory)
- Ornithochory – seed dispersal by birds
- Pollination – defined as the transfer of pollen between plants for the purpose of sexual reproduction
- Biotic Pollination – involves the transport of pollen by insects, bees, birds, bats, and small animals through social behavior and naturally occurring activities
- Soil Fertilization – refers to the the increased levels of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus present in the humus and topsoil of the forest as a result of increased animal deification
- Large Seed Plants – include trees, larger ferns and some thickets
- Forest Migration – the movement of large seed plant populations over longer periods of time, including the expansion and contraction of forest sizes
AmpLeaf is designed to fit the needs of on-site customisation and adaptability. All components are included in a minimally packaged format. Each ‘control’ sheet is embedded with the electronics required for energy harvesting, conversion, and light and sound emission. One additional sheet without electronics is provided and can be installed with the control sheet to enhance material reverberation and increased production.
Energy production with AmpLeaf is simple. As wind flows over and between the surfaces, vibration occurs along the rigid materials, activating the nano-generating piezos. Energy is transferred to the ‘control’ corner, where it is stored for use in powering lights and sounds. An integrated LDR light sensor in the FLORA micro-controller takes a light reading after each programmed sleep interval (typical interval is approx 30 min). Based on a value of 1 (daytime), the speaker is activated, playing the programmed bird sound. Based on a value of zero (night), the neopixel LEDs are activated until the next reading.
Variation in the voltage input to energy harvester is due to the variation in generation of current from the piezos, which fluctuates according to material reverberation in the surface. Energy produced from the piezos is trickled into the NI-MH battery over time. Output from the harvester to the battery is constant, albeit in small amounts. Output from the battery to the rest of the system via the FLORA occurs at the the 30-minute programmed interval, and differs depending on the function as determined by the light reading.
Social and Ecological Implications
Unlike conventional wind energy harvesters, this device is quiet and embedded into nature. Using wind vibration energy offers a solution to micro-production of energy which operates at a very low frequency and high level of integration due to the fact that it responds not only to windspeed, but also to its direct environment. The cycle of output from the device is directly linked to the amount of energy input in the surrounding by wind, movements of animals, and human-induced environmental changes.
Ecological Agents of Interest:
- Flora and Fauna: the park regions used to be home to a number of species which have now been virtually eliminated. Though human intervention has attempted to bring these species back, we are interested in passive, biological stimulants to the process – Native species of interest: Apricot Tree, Acerola Plantae, Sweet Chestnut Tree, Cherry Tree, Guava Tree, Raspberry Tree, Wolfberry Tree, Pomegranate, Apple Tree, Chillean Guava, Common Walnut, Pear, Common Plum, Wine Grape, Gooseberry
- Birds: Because of their response to blooming and fruit-bearing trees, we are interested in using a back-to-basics concept of attracting birds through sound waves, and utilizing their social nature to passively expand the biological networks at Valldaura – Native species of interest: European Stonechat, Warbler, Nightengale, Wren, Robin, Goldfinch
- Small Mammals and Insects: The possibility of interacting with small mammals and insects is intriguing. An increase in insect populations will attract more birds to the area. Small mammals will contribute to the zoochory and biotic pollination by digesting seeds and berries – Native species of interest: Wild boars, Foxes, Rabbits, Small rodents
Furthermore, to its ecological programs, the surface performs another function at night. When light levels reach a certain low, energy from the storage device will be directed towards the production of lights through Neopixel LEDs which are sewn into the fabric. The intention is to create spaces which are usable by both humans and animals for the enrichment of the area’s biodiversity.
- 2-year: The 2-year plan for growth of this intervention includes the installation of surfaces in 3 specific trees to create a triangulated area in which to study. The target area includes the hilltops to the south and south east of Valldaura campus (pictured). The surface should be checked once per week to ensure that the components are operational and the systems should be replaced after 2 years at the end of the winter season. This will ensure maximum efficiency in peak mating seasons.
- 15-year: Two centuries ago most of the Valldaura region was occupied by vineyards and farmland which were self-sufficient and home to over 800 species of fauna. The future cultivability of the land is dependant on the strength of the ecological network. This 15-year plan includes a number of extensions of the focused areas surrounding Valldaura campus which will form a framework for biodiversity development, strengthening the fertility of the soils and the natural mineral cycles.
In 2014 AmpLeaf was on exhibit in the Barcelona Llum Festival (Festival of Lights) as part of the IaaC installation entitled ‘Dada’. 2 more AmpLeafs were fabricated for the installation, one of which was 40% bigger. Below are pictures from the event, which took place from February 7-9 in the patio of Museu Marès.
Amp Leaf is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (www.iaac.net) developed in the Introductory Studio of the Master of Advanced Architecture Program in 2014 by:
Student: Kateryna Rogynska, Ramin Shambayati, Robert Douglas McKaye, Sahil Sharma
Faculty: Javier Peña, Rodrigo Rubio, Oriol Carrasco