Jakob Knudsen, Otis Sloan Brittain, Hannah Wood
MORU / University of Oxford / CSK
10.2019 - 07.2021
The Field Laboratory is a base for researchers working on the public health, entomology, and architectural post-occupancy studies of the Star Homes project. It is constructed on an urban site in Mtwara, southern Tanzania, and includes a landscape design of aromatic plants. The project was designed by architects Jakob Knudsen, Hannah Wood and Otis Sloan Brittain with consultancy from Salum Mshamu and Lorenz von Seidlein and was constructed by Eco Homes.
The project challenges the idea that a field laboratory in a hot-tropical climate must be fully air-conditioned by aiming to have the majority of spaces passively cooled. This was achieved through techniques such introducing overhangs on the north and south facades and vertical fins on the east and west facades to increase shading and minimise overheating and glare during the day. The double roof structure was designed to reduce solar radiation and heat gains on the upper floor and the building is orientated and interior layout organised for optimum airflow. Spaces which are required to be temperature-controlled, such as lab storage, are well insulated to lower in-use energy demands. Shared offices include openable screened sliding windows which allow them to be passively cooled for most of the year.
As some of the passive design strategies were interdependent, such as the shading fins and the movement of air through the building, different design options were simulated using Computational Fluid Design (CFD) to better understand which strategies would be most effective for overall cooling. These simulations enabled alternative layouts to be analysed to balance different factors and ensure optimal performance of the building.
The Field Laboratory was designed to have lower embodied energy compared with a standard concrete block laboratory building per m2, which was achieved by enclosing only the spaces necessary and making use of a Light Gauge Steel (LGS) frame structure and a hollow wall build up.
The Field Laboratory is centred around a covered terrace which provides a comfortable space for colleagues to relax, share ideas and enjoy views out into the landscape. The project includes bespoke furniture, kitchen and storage. The meeting room and shared office are designed to be flexible to adapt as use requirements evolve.