Exploratory Work and BC3 Mission
Here at Building Center No.3 we are constantly searching for ways to solve problems we identify in the built environment. That premise, historically, has been the ethos of Building Centers, and this office being in Miami seeks to find problems endemic to this city. Half of our office uses public transit regularly and one of the problems we discovered while using the bus system are negative perceptions facing bus ridership. We suspect that most of the associations have socio-economic underpinnings, but as regular riders we do think taking the bus exposes oneself to specific indignities in Miami.
Here is our short list of grievances
At BC3 we looked at the above issues as problems to be studied and solved using design solutions. We wanted any solution provided to be a mix of good architectural form and readily available technology to ensure that project is feasible in today’s market.
We looked at how we can use current technology and compelling form to address the problem of Sun, rain, public safety, and the absence of important real-time bus route information.
Our solution for the problems went through multiple designs and multiple versions of the same design–architects refer to this as an iterative design process. The design quickly evolves from the “seed” idea–in this case the idea of the fingers of a hand serving as the canopy of the bus shelter. The joints of the fingers are pivot points of adjustability in the system. These pivot points would allow the individual fingers to adjust to the position of the Sun in concert with other fingers–these positions can be predetermined based on the geo-specific and solar orientation of the future bus stop. For example if the canopy of the shelter was oriented north-south this establishes a predetermined position of the Sun in relationship to the canopy. In fact for every hour, minute and second of each day for the entire year, the Sun’s position can be tracked precisely. These positions in the sky can be programmed into software that controls the movement of each “finger.”
We envision the the Sun tracking features to be incremental adjustments that occur every 30 seconds. We began referring to the “fingers” as armatures. The armature would be designed from aluminum billet and each joint would have a low voltage servo-motor at the the pivot point. Within the structural frame we would house a small CPU that would store the solar tracking data as coordinates–similar to text files sent to a CNC machine. The fabric spanning the armatures would need the following characteristics:
We studied canopy positions that would offer the most rain protection for the greatest number of people–simply straightening the armatures to provide a flat roof would offer maximum coverage. We also looked at irrigation control system technology for simple rain sensors that would activate the rain position of the shelter so that the armatures would switch from their predetermined Sun tracking position to the flat roof position. Upon conclusion of the rain event the armatures would return to the next scheduled Sun tracking position based on the time of day. Rain sensor technology can be bought at The Home Depot for under $50.
At night, even high volume bus stops have little or no light beyond what may be emitted from advertising. Our design solution incorporates LED strip lights into the full length of each armature. At dusk the Sun tracking feature is no longer necessary, so the armatures can pitch up at a 20-30 degree angle in order to illuminate the largest area. When a bus (tracked by GPS) is within two minutes of the bus stop the LED lights in certain armatures can change from a steady white to a blinking green. Once the bus departs the light would return to white. These are helpful tools to improve public safety and provide more real-time information to the rider.
Shape of the Shelter
In Miami many of the bus shelters are inland where they may not benefit from the coastal breezes. Also as the metropolitan area continues to densify, buildings will impede air flow at street level. Taking this into consideration we used the climate modeling software, Vasari to analyze different footprint shapes (not canopy shapes, which constantly change with the Sun) and optimize the flow of air at street level. We wanted a shape that would augment airflow in both the long direction and also laterally through the shelter. We settled on the elongated S shape because of its air movement qualities. Additionally, we designed a polycarbonate wall system inside the shelter (for personal safety to prevent someone from approaching unnoticed from behind) that is perforated with circles to allow air to pass through. These perforations could have unique graphics/patterns that could be customized to be relevant to the neighborhood or city the bus shelter is in.
We think between the optimized shape of the shelter and the perforated polycarbonate sheet we could passively maximize airflow in and around the shelter.
Information Technology Incorporated
The City of Miami bus trolleys already incorporate GPS tracking technology; the same technology would need to be rolled out for County buses. The bus shelter would have two systems to take advantage of this technology:
We looked at a series of challenges that we feel require further investigation or that we think we adequately addressed in our solution at his stage of development:
The project reflects our office’s interest in using good design and critical thinking to identify and solve local problems creatively. We hope that these exploratory projects demonstrate our potential as an urban office solving uniquely urban problems.
Bus Stop in motion: