Japanese architecture firm Nikken Sekkei recently took top honors in the Production/Energy/Recycling category at the World Architecture Festival for its work on the Sony City Osaki building in Tokyo. The building is the first of its kind to use a natural 'bioskin' cooling system, which pulls heat away from the building as water evaporates from it, causing the air around the building to cool.
Nikken Sekkei’s bioskin system is a groundbreaking attempt to reduce operations costs and energy use through natural processes. The idea was inspired by the traditional Japanese techniques of cooling the air through techniques like spraying water and shading. A system of ceramic louvres on the eastern side of the building “act as enormous sprinklers for the environment,” according to the Nikken Sekkei website. “The building was conceived as a massive cooling device that performs in much the same way as a natural forest.”
The ceramic pipes are made from soil, and on hot days rainwater collected from the building’s roof is pumped through them to help keep the building cool. The firm estimates that the bioskin system can lower the temperature of the surrounding air by about 2°C. Instead of contributing to the heat island effect, Nikken Sekkei expects the building to serve as an urban “cool spot.” On the southern face of the building, solar panels protrude from the facade. Like the bioskin, the solar panels also double as shades, so they produce energy while keeping the interior of the building cool.