Bio-composite Roof Tiles With Solar Panels Are An Ode To Traditions In The Modern World

In a world grappling with environmental challenges, Studio SKLIM’s Lo-Hi Tech project stands out as a beacon of innovation, marrying high and low technologies to create hybrid solutions that are not only efficient but also environmentally friendly. This project is a testament to the power of blending primitive materials with modern and ancient technology to address contemporary issues and enhance human living conditions.

Designer: Studio SKLIM

The Lo-Hi Tech project revolves around two main building material systems: the Ke-Sol System (KSS) and the Terra-Cooling System (TCS). The Ke-Sol System seamlessly combines the strength of Kenaf fibers in lightweight biocomposite roof tiles with custom solar panels, showcasing a perfect harmony between nature and technology. Through a meticulous process involving high thermal pressure, Kenaf fiber mats are transformed into robust yet lightweight roof panels. These panels are then integrated with monocrystalline solar panels, creating an innovative roof tile capable of generating clean energy through its modular and tiltable configurations.

The integration of the Ke-Sol System not only emphasizes sustainability but also illustrates the potential for future-proofing primitive materials with advanced technology. The combination of Kenaf fibers and solar panels provides a durable roofing solution and also transforms roofs into energy-generating surfaces. This not only reduces the environmental impact of traditional roofing materials but also contributes to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

On the other front, the Terra-Cooling System harnesses the natural properties of terracotta, drawing inspiration from ancient refrigeration and irrigation techniques. Comprising Hex and Tri components, the system converts hot air into cool air while serving as a water tank. By integrating terracotta with innovative technology, the TCS forms a wall system capable of reducing air temperatures by an impressive 6.5 degrees Celsius. This substantial temperature drop is achieved through the inherent cooling properties of terracotta, a well-designed form maximizing air and water flow, and the cooling effect driven by water evaporation.

Computer Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations play a crucial role in refining the TCS design for optimal evaporative cooling performance. The system envisions a future where material systems seamlessly transition between shelter and vehicular infrastructure, breaking conventional boundaries. One promising application involves creating sustainable shelter infrastructure for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. These structures not only reduce ambient temperatures but also utilize solar energy for localized lighting during the night, showcasing the project’s commitment to integrated sustainability solutions.

The Lo-Hi Tech project represents more than just a technological achievement; it is a celebration of the convergence of traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge techniques. The images of terracotta pieces being removed from the kiln, custom-built wood-fired kilns, and CNC-milled molds reveal the meticulous craftsmanship involved in creating these sustainable solutions. This blend of ancient materials and modern technology exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to addressing environmental challenges while honoring the rich heritage of craftsmanship. It is a commendable example of how innovative thinking can revolutionize the construction and energy sectors. By combining primitive materials with state-of-the-art technology, the project not only showcases the potential for sustainable solutions but also sets a precedent for future initiatives that seamlessly integrate the built environment with vehicles, paving the way for a more sustainable and interconnected future.

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Electricity-free Refrigerator uses Natural Clay to Keep Food Fresh

In the world of innovative design, industrial designer Lea Lorenz has unveiled Tony, a revolutionary portable refrigerator and food container that takes inspiration from an age-old tradition of using clay pots to store fruits and vegetables. Tony represents a modern reimagination of the traditional clay jug cooler, utilizing the power of evaporative cooling to create an eco-friendly and electricity-free solution for preserving perishables.

Designer: Lea Lorenz

At the heart of Tony lies its porous raku clay shell, a material that naturally absorbs water from a reservoir. Through the process of evaporation, this unique cooling system brings the interior temperature to a range of 13°C-17°C without relying on electricity. Lea Lorenz explains that this temperature range creates an ideal storage environment for foods that are sensitive to extreme cold, such as fruits and vegetables, which can lose flavor and undergo undesirable post-ripening processes in traditional refrigerators.

To achieve the optimal cooling effect, Lea Lorenz conducted extensive experiments with different types of clay and clay mixtures. The results revealed that a Raku clay shell absorbs water from the tank most effectively. Each Tony clay container comprises a water tank, a food container, and a lid, allowing each section to operate independently with its water supply. The outer wall’s surface is meticulously subtractively machined to increase the surface area for enhanced water evaporation and a quicker drop in temperature inside.

Understanding the impact of external factors like sunlight and nearby heat sources on internal temperature, Lea paired Tony with a wooden stand for increased mobility. This allows users to move the clay cooler around, ensuring optimal storage conditions for fruits and vegetables.

Lea Lorenz addressed the importance of proper fruit and vegetable storage by designing Tony as several rectangular clay containers of varying sizes that can be stacked on top of each other. This innovative approach provides a designated space for each group of produce, contributing to longer freshness and reduced spoilage.

Lea emphasizes the environmental sustainability of Tony throughout its lifecycle. The Raku clay is responsibly sourced from the Westerwald region of Germany, minimizing transport routes and reducing CO2 emissions. The production process involves firing the clay coolers at the lowest possible temperature of 1000°C for minimal energy consumption. Furthermore, Tony is built to last, and if it becomes non-functional, the clay coolers can be recycled by grinding them into fireclay, which can then be used to manufacture new coolers.

Tony by Lea Lorenz is not just a functional and aesthetically pleasing design; it represents a thoughtful and sustainable solution to food storage. By marrying traditional methods with modern technology, Tony offers an eco-friendly alternative to conventional refrigeration, promoting food longevity, reducing waste, and contributing to a more sustainable future.

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3D printed Terracotta Cooler Gives a Modern yet Traditional Makeover to Air-Conditioning

With the relentless increase in global temperatures, air conditioning has become an essential requirement for human survival, rather than a mere luxury. However, conventional air conditioning systems exacerbate the issue by contributing significantly to the carbon footprint. This calls for innovative designers to seek eco-friendly alternatives, blending traditional wisdom with modern resources to address this pressing challenge. In response to this need, the low-tech terracotta cooler emerges as a promising and sustainable cooling solution, born from the collaborative efforts of visionary designers and engineers.

Designer: Simon Pavy

The brainchild of a collaborative effort between a visionary designer and the global design agency Entreautre, the low-tech cooler draws inspiration from ancient practices. At its core lies a simple yet effective principle: a porous terracotta container filled with water. The ingenious idea of utilizing porous building materials for external walls is a common architectural practice in the Middle East and hotter regions of India. People of Egypt also used an evaporative cooling method by hanging wet reed mats over doorways and windows, these various natural inspirations form the basis of this innovative cooling solution. In these traditional designs, intricate geometric patterns not only lend a decorative touch but also play a pivotal role in creating a cooling effect. As warm air passes through narrow openings, it undergoes a cooling transformation due to the shift from high-pressure to low-pressure areas, enabling it to absorb heat effectively.

Central to the low-tech cooler’s functionality is a well-engineered ventilation system known as the Water Evaporative Evaporator Effect (WEEE). By allowing airflow to come into contact with the wet surface of the terracotta container, the water undergoes a natural evaporation process, producing a refreshing flow of cold air. This ingenious yet straightforward approach showcases the power of nature-inspired solutions in addressing modern challenges.

To achieve an optimal cooling effect, the designers sought to maximize the contact between the ventilated air and the wet terracotta surface. Embracing cutting-edge technology, they turned to ceramic 3D printing, which offered the unique ability to test complex volumes and experiment with differential growth. This process, mimicking nature’s organic growth patterns, not only enhanced the cooler’s performance but also bestowed it with an aesthetically pleasing design, becoming a manifesto of their vision.

In the pursuit of perfection, the design team relied on the powerful Grasshopper software, a visual 3D programming language linked to Rhino 3D. Though the software presented its challenges in terms of complexity, it proved to be an invaluable tool in creating intricate and parametric designs that would have been unachievable with traditional CAD programs. The dedication of the designers to master this software reflects their commitment to pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

As with any ambitious project, the path to success was not without its challenges. The team had to navigate multiple constraints, including selecting the optimal material thickness, porosity, and method of conception. Collaboration with experts in mechanical engineering and Fablab’s CEO was pivotal in finding solutions and guiding the team toward their ultimate goal.

For the actualization of their innovative design, the team employed a one-of-a-kind 3D printing machine designed by the renowned Dutch artist, Olivier Van Herpt. This unique machine, adapted for terracotta printing, operates similarly to traditional 3D plastic printers but extrudes terra-cotta as a thin filament layer by layer.

As the product undergoes rigorous testing, encompassing aspects of sealing, terracotta durability, airflow efficiency, and real-world performance in hot environments, the low-tech terracotta cooler holds the promise of revolutionizing cooling methods.

In the face of climate change and the escalating demand for cooling solutions, the low-tech terracotta cooler stands as a beacon of hope. By blending traditional wisdom with modern technology, visionary designers have created an eco-friendly alternative that embraces nature’s principles to provide cool comfort. As this innovative cooling solution enters the testing phase, its potential to mitigate the impact of conventional air conditioning systems and contribute to a sustainable future shines bright. The low-tech terracotta cooler is a reminder that harmony between tradition and innovation can indeed pave the way toward a greener and cooler world…

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Foam-like terracotta aroma diffuser doesn’t need heat or electricity

Although there is still some debate on the medical benefits of aromatherapy, there is hardly any argument against the effects that scents can have on our state of mind, not to mention our physiology. Overpowering perfumes, for example, can make us sneeze or give us a headache, but gentle aromas can induce a state of calm and relaxation or trigger pleasant memories associated with those smells. Essential oil diffusers have become quite popular these days as an alternative way for some people to relieve stress, but some actually induce stress because of their poor design or complicated operation. Nothing, however, could be simpler than just dropping a few drops of fragrant oils on a surface and sitting back to relax, which is the kind of simplicity that this sustainable and unique-looking material tries to offer.

Designer: Premnath Basa

Aroma diffusers now come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. The most basic ones have ceramic or metal containers and use a candle or heat to make the oil evaporate and diffuse the scent. There are now, however, devices that use electricity to turn infused water into vapor and spray it into the air. While both types have their advantages and drawbacks, they both involve some amount of preparation, setup, and time.

A new kind of essential oil diffuser has started appearing, though, one that keeps human interaction down to a minimum, pretty much just putting in a few drops of liquid. Such products use natural properties to evaporate the liquid and natural air to distribute the scent in a room. That’s the heat-free and electricity-free experience that this sponge-like aroma diffuser is promising, but that’s not what makes this particular design special.

Despite its foam-like appearance, the material is actually made of a new kind of terracotta that mixes organic biopolymers and inorganic ceramics and terracotta clay. It’s actually that mixture, especially when dried under sunlight, that gives the hybrid organic-inorganic material its porous appearance. This new and still experimental methodology yields distinctive porosity structures, meaning that each batch is unique and one-of-a-kind.

Terracotta is popular for its absorbent qualities, making it the ideal material for sustainable humidifiers. In this more porous form, the material can not only hold oils, water, and other liquids but also let them easily evaporate to diffuse their aromas. This new kind of terracotta material not only makes for an effective and sustainable aroma diffuser, it also provides a visually interesting design that easily outclasses most diffusers available in the market today.

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Natural energy-free air conditioner uses the cooling properties of terracotta to regulate temperatures

Working on a principle that’s about as old as mankind itself, the Nave Air Conditioning System uses terracotta’s evaporative cooling abilities to naturally regulate temperatures without requiring any electricity or complex electronics. It’s fairly sustainable, and has zero emissions, offering a nifty low-tech way to keep spaces cool in the summers.

Designed by Yael Issacharov, the Nave bases itself on the Palestinian Jara – a traditional terracotta water container that would be hung from the ceiling of a room, working as both a water cooler and a room cooler. Nave, with its larger size and intricate design helps cool rooms too, while also serving as a sculptural artpiece that’s a part of a room’s decor. Designed in both floor-standing units as well as wall-mounted panels, Nave can be placed in any part of a house and begins working the minute you pour water into its hollow internal structure.

Designer: Yael Issacharov

Designed to be customizable and modular, Nave integrates wonderfully into spaces thanks to its unique Arabesque-inspired design. The grill patterns are a major hat-tip to the Nave’s humble Arabic origins, and add a wonderful touch to a room’s aesthetic.

The way Nave works is rather simple. Water inside the hollow vessel travels outwards through the porous terracotta walls. As it does, it gradually evaporates and turns to water vapor – a reaction that absorbs heat from the air around it, cooling the terracotta, the water, as well as the room you’re in… without any electricity or emissions. The technology’s also been seen implemented in cooling down subway stations, and also in low-tech cooler-humidifiers for small apartments.

The Nave Air Conditioning System is a winner of the A’ Design Award for the year 2022.

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These hive-like terracotta structures offer a natural way to cool air down a bit

Whether you believe in global warming or not, it’s hard to deny that the past days have been setting records when it comes to abnormally hot temperatures. Some countries that normally don’t experience such hot and humid weather were caught unprepared, while others cranked up the air conditioning, which meant higher expenses and more carbon emissions. Though we now experience greater amounts of heat, the problem isn’t unique to our history. There was a time when humans didn’t even have electric fans to help them keep cool, and they used more natural and environment-friendly methods instead. There is some wisdom to those ancient ways, and one particular idea uses these methods to help cool the surrounding air while also looking like sculptural art at the same time.

Designer: ant.studio

Evaporative cooling has been around since the time of ancient Egyptians and Romans, who used water and clay to cool the air inside their houses. When water evaporates, it carries with it some of the surrounding heat, effectively reducing the temperature in the area. Egyptians fanned porous jars of water while Romans coursed water through walls. We can easily create similar cooling solutions these days, too, especially with a little help from modern technology.

There are two major components to this kind of cooling system. First is clay, which has hygroscopic properties that let it attract water more easily. Water is the other element, and it flows around clay cylinders in order to create an evaporating cooling cycle. That water doesn’t go to waste and is recycled and pumped to the top of the structure again. Given the qualities of terracotta material, this system is almost 100% sustainable, except for the electronics and fuel used to recycle and pump the water.

ant.studio also puts an artful twist to these evaporative coolers. Beehive binds the terracotta cones and cylinders into a circular form, creating the semblance of a section of a beehive. CoolAnt Coral, on the other hand, piles these pieces into a pillar akin to underwater corals or tall beehives. Though it could give some people shivers, the functional art installations have a distinct character to them, especially after you find out what they can do.

Sparkle 100%

Admittedly, evaporative cooling won’t work everywhere, and it comes with its own drawbacks. Evaporating water, for example, increases the humidity in the same area, which may not be ideal for some situations and for some people. There’s also a fair amount of electricity involved, so it’s not a complete win-win situation.

That said, both Beehive and CoolAnt Coral help provoke the mind to look for more sustainable solutions and fast. This heatwave might not be a simple fluke and could just be the start of something worse, and typical cooling solutions only contribute to the long-term problem while providing short-term comfort. These designs also prove that our ancestors might have been on to something with their clay pots and in-house aqueducts, and it’s up to us with our modern technologies to design something better.

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This collection of hexagonal bricks inspired by beehives is shaped for infinite expandability

Hives is a collection of hexagonal, terracotta bricks that can be laid together to form endless configurations for interior furnishings and architectural structures.

Mutina is a collaborative ceramics company devoted to bringing top designers to the world of ceramics to bring their visions to life. Inspired by the endless range of textures and colors accessible to ceramicists, Mutina’s catalog of terracotta ceramics is constantly pushing the envelope for exciting and innovative new designs.

Designer: Mutina x Konstantin Grcic

Recently, the Italian brand commissioned Konstantin Grcic to develop a new line of terracotta bricks that challenges the fixed nature of brick-building. Inspired by the complex structure of beehives, Grcic’s line of terracotta bricks, aptly called Hives, can create seemingly endless configurations.

Described as a hexagonal brick, each brick that comprises the Hives collection could also be described as two hexagonal bricks merged together, giving the brick its three-dimensional appeal. Through this dynamic shaping, Grcic managed to design a brick that could build geometric partitions just as well as cylindrical columns.

If laid vertically, the bricks form a semi-open structure with open cavities formed by the bricks’ harsh angles. When laid flat, the bricks can either be placed in a staggered or flush formation, producing more lively, undulating facades for structures like columns and table counters.

Available in the size 13×22, 5x7cm, the Hives brick is fully functional and versatile to build walls, architectural structures, and interior furnishings. Realized in terracotta, each Hives brick maintains impressive thermal and acoustics capacities, as well as durable tactile properties that are warmed by the brick’s soothing, orange glow. Produced using an artisanal technique called extrusion, each Hives brick is unique and organic in structure.

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This sustainable humidifier moistens the air in any room by using the natural evaporative qualities of terracotta!

The Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier uses terracotta to function as a sustainable alternative to electric air humidifiers by employing capillary action to moisten dry interior spaces.

For centuries, terracotta has been sculpted into household appliances that naturally perform cooling, heating, and evaporative methods. Porous by its organic composition, designers typically integrate a form of capillary action into their products for terracotta to execute forms of vaporization and cooling distribution. A group of students from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts teamed up with some designers from Shenzhen Changsen Trading Company to produce an air humidifier from clay that doesn’t require any electricity for operation.

Led by Haibo Hou, the team of student designers produced the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier as a sustainable alternative to electric air humidifiers. Designed to moisten dry interior spaces, the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier almost appears like a radiator made from clay. The air humidifier is made from a type of pottery that contains just the right amount of porosity and moisture absorption qualities. By adding water to the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier’s basin, the droplets will gradually rise and evaporate through tiny cavities located near the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier’s top. As the water rises, the interior space’s air is moistened with small water droplets. The corrugated body of the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier creates a wavelike form that alludes to its natural evaporative function.

Recognized by Red Dot, the Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier was chosen as a design winner in 2021 for its use of sustainable material and general practicality. Speaking on the product’s aesthetic and functional design elements, the team says, “Its beautiful and rhythmic wave-like surface form can increase the evaporation area of water to moisten the whole indoor environment. On this basis, The Coarse Pottery Air-Humidifier blends in with the tone of culturally rich interiors as an elegant accessory in the interior.”

Designers: Hou Haibo, Feng Jijie, Luo Li, & Yang Ruibing

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This furniture collection also doubles up as pot planters with an ultimate Japandi vibe!

After spending 99% of my time at home in the last two years, I have naturally developed a keen eye for good furniture designs. My preferred style is Japandi or Scandanavian design because I love their minimal aesthetic, functionality, and evergreen pieces – all of which I see in Lur! It is a furniture collection that includes pot planters which also double up as seating in the most organic manner. It was designed for Alki, a brand that is always seeking to collaborate with local businesses which makes it even more special because it unites distinct know-how and materials.

To create the Lur collection, designer Iratzoki Lizaso went to Goicoechea Pottery and work with the local team. The pottery workshop is based in Ortzaize in Lower Navarre, just a few kilometers from Alki. The Goicoechea family has been working with terracotta for three generations. The materials used, the solid oak, and the clay from the Goicoechea family quarry are here entirely natural.

The collection consists of planters and a bistro table. They all have smooth curves and organic shapes featuring a warm aesthetic thanks to the choice of materials and CMF details. It is minimal, timeless, and can work equally well for homes, offices, and public spaces. The idea of ​​being able to vegetate our interiors with pots that are also low tables or seating participates in the creation of living and changing arrangements. These terracotta containers with an eccentric hole on the upper part, house flower pots that allow many unique and artistic compositions that can change the look and feel of a space!

Alki, the pottery team, and Iratzoki Lizaso enjoyed bringing together different craft skills to create Lur. The collection is centered around the idea of plant pots that can work double duty as shelves and coffee tables that add an extra dose of greenery to our spaces. Everything is bio-sourced and made with the intention to work universally as well as for a long time. The clay is transformed into a beautiful rose terracotta with a distinct texture with an off-center opening ready to hold flower pots and plants. The Lur range shows beauty in simplicity while doubling the functionality with minimal design!

Desinger: Iratzoki Lizaso

This modular terracotta clay pot keeps food cool without any electricity for refrigeration!

The Terracooler is a modern interpretation of the traditional Zeer pot or pot-in-pot refrigerator, an evaporative cooling refrigeration device that has been used for centuries and is still used today in countries across the globe, such as India and Nigeria.

Zeer pots, or pot-in-pot refrigerators, carry a rich, enduring history. Dating back to as early as 3000BC, Zeer pots have been used in the kitchen as evaporative cooling refrigeration devices across the globe for centuries. Comprised of two clay pots, the porous outer pot is lined with wet sand and surrounds a glazed inner clay pot where food items can be stored for refrigeration.

Requiring no electricity whatsoever, Zeer pots only need a source of water and some dry air to keep produce and other food items cool. Reinterpreting the Zeer pot for modern use, London-based designer Ellie Perry created the Terracooler, a tri-tiered pot-in-pot refrigerator that fits right at home on the kitchen counter.

Like many designers today, Perry felt compelled to design her Terracooler after learning that 10% of household energy is taken up by domestic refrigerators. However, in the UK, where Perry is based, 14 million tons of food waste is accumulated each year. The Terracooler was designed by Perry to make sense of that perplexing ratio.

Inspired by the modern use of Zeer pots in countries like India and Nigeria, Perry devised sketches and models before taking to CNC milling to produce a wooden model of her Terracooler. Using the wooden model as a plaster mold, Perry slipped cast from the mold to create a version made from terracotta clay.

Using the traditional build of pot-in-pot refrigerators, Terracooler is formed from three tapered, double-sided slip cast pieces with built-in handles. The handles stem from both sides of each individual pot and also work as spouts for water to pour through and provide evaporative cooling. With a vertical, modular design, Terracooler fits snugly on any kitchen counter and can be disassembled for access to the food items inside each pot.

Designer: Ellie Perry