‘Cool bricks’ uses the process of evaporative cooling to cool buildings during hot and dry climates. Cool Bricks masonry walls can be filled with water just like a sponge which passively cools the interiors of our homes.
Summers are the time when we depend on air conditioners or air coolers to go through our day and night. A summer day when we might have a power breakdown is like a nightmare. But imagine a building system that can cool our homes using the most abundant compound available on earth – water.
Emerging Objects, a San Francisco Bay based 3D Printing MAKE-tank, has come up with the idea of ‘Cool Bricks’ which does just that. Cool Bricks are basically 3D printed bricks working on the principles of evaporative cooling.
What is Evaporative Cooling
Evaporative cooling is a process that can be used to cool buildings. This can be as simple as including a water feature such as a fountain in a courtyard or spraying water over a building roof. It is basically a process of addition of water vapor into the air, which causes a lowering of the ambient temperature.
The concept of evaporative cooling comes from our body sweating process. When sweat evaporates from our skin, the heat of vaporization is drawn from the skin, which results in cooling of our body temperatures.
For centuries, people living in hot climates have used the concept of evaporative cooling, often through something called a Maucatese Evaporative system. In this set-up, a wooden lattice or ‘mashrabiya’ covers the windows while a porous, water-filled ceramic jar sits inside it. As the air passes through the wooden lattice the water inside the jar evaporates, depositing cool air inside the room.
The Principle behind Cool Bricks
Cool Bricks masonry walls use this principle to passively cool the interiors of our homes. Made up of 3 dimensional printed porous ceramic bricks set in mortar, each brick absorbs water like a sponge. These bricks can be filled with water just like a sponge.
When the hot and dry air passes through the bricks, the air absorbs the water through evaporation and becomes cooler. This cooler air enters our rooms, lowering the interior temperature.
Cool Bricks are modular and interlocking. They can be stacked together to create large screens. The 3-dimensional lattice creates a strong bond when set in mortar. The shape of the brick also creates a shaded surface on the wall to keep a large percentage of the wall’s surface cool and protected from the sun. This further improves the wall’s performance.
For Emerging Objects, all of their focus is around developing 3D printing solutions and designing innovative spaces for living and working. A number of their innovations are still at the prototype stage.
The Cool Bricks project was made possible with the help of TETHON 3D, an Omaha, Nebraska-based company, which manufactures ceramic powders and photocurable ceramic and iron polymers for 3D printing. Their focus on ceramic material produces the best materials for diverse industrial, consumer and design industries.
According to the design and engineering teams at Emerging Objects if you live in a hot and dry climate such as the Middle East and Western Australia you can construct an entire wall or home using Cool Bricks which will act as your cooling system. They will work wonders in such regions by providing for the capability of holding a lot of water vapor.
So, instead of running air containers and incurring huge electricity bills, you could just water your walls and enjoy a pleasant and cool temperature inside your house. This could bring a major impact in the desert environment though it would not be of much use in areas where humidity levels are already high.
In my opinion, while this is an innovative design and future technology, inherently Cool Bricks are ceramic based and hence they would lack the toughness and security that regular bricks give our homes. They may also not be appropriate for internal walls because of their brittle nature.
Having said that, the power of this new technology and innovation can be harnessed as a design element to our walls. Interspersing Cool Bricks between regular bricks or having a portion of the wall to stand out aesthetically. This can still provide for the cooling effect of the bricks and not compromise on safety and security.
All in all, Cool Bricks is an exciting innovation in building material and it would be interesting to see how Emerging Objects makes it more practical.