Carbon-Neutral High-Rise Envelope Nexus

Generative Design and Engineering for Extreme Subtropical Climates



Photo of Thomas Spiegelhalter

Thomas Spiegelhalter


Studio Thomas Spiegelhalter + Associates



The pathway to carbon-neutrality, as urged during the COP 21 in Paris, and the repeated goal for resilient buildings and urban habitats, winds right through the building envelope. As world cities cope with rapid population growth and grapple with expansive sprawl, planners have become increasingly focused on the vertical city paradigm. Current and future facade tectonics not only provide aesthetics, economical, and a social-cultural context within the urban community, but are vital for a building's usability, durability, operational efficiency, occupant protection, thermal comfort, and human wellness. In particular, tall building envelopes are a concern in tropical locations subjected to extreme weather and geological events. This research paper critically reviews and examine two academic research lab designed tall buildings in Miami and Tokyo, and one professionally built, examined and optimized 21-story high-rise building in San Jose, Costa Rica. The research includes selective, multidisciplinary design baseline parameter analysis with generative optimization Energy-Water-Food Nexus workflows related to the following variables:

  1. Human-scale, tectonics configuration, orientation, adaptability
  2. Renewable energy hybrid power skins
  3. Thermal comfort, natural ventilation, and air quality;
  4. Daylighting levels, and controllability
  5. Carbon-neutral, passive-active, hybrid cooling, dehumidification, and thermal storage
  6. Green envelope tectonics with urban food production
  7. Water management and treatment of skin systems

In summary, the design/built research includes workflows that mimic nature's evolutionary fitness approach to benefit engineers, and designers in efficiently developing resilient facade tectonics that resists intense winds, extreme heat, and humidity, sea-level rise which raises the issue of corrosion to foundation structures, and seismic forces while providing building system operational with user comfort. Prevention of the impacts of systems and materiality as they pertain to the embodied carbon lifecycle footprint can be also reduced throughout the generative and iterative analysis and optimization processes towards carbon-neutrality for tall building tectonics in tropical climates.

Introduction and Motivation

By 2050, the human population will have reached 9 billion, and about 75% of whom will be living in cities. Geographically, this would be the equivalent of building eight megacities

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Background For Feedback Framework Questions

The current business-as-usual industry with their negative GHG trajectory alarmed early the reinsurance community to push for an urgent transformation and mandate at least three considerable risk factors that are

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Project Method and Research Objectives

The computational workflow for all three interdisciplinary research projects include the following cloud software tools and platforms: Visual programming with Autodesk Dynamo (Python, Fractal, Refinery) and Grasshopper-Ladybug; Revit-GBS- Insight360 with

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Project Description - Three Case Studies

The first project is a professional expert consultancy contract of the author to create a baseline fitness analysis of the submitted architects and engineers plans and calculations of a 21-story

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Case Studies

San Jose, Costa Rica Nueva Asamblea Legislativa, 2018-2020

Method: Cloud Based Simulation and Multidisciplinary Generative Design Optimization Framework

Objectives: Bio-Climatic Analysis, Design + BIM-Dynamo Optimizations for the New Governmental Building.


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Two Hypothetical Tall Building Case Studies

The two conceptual and generative building tectonic design research projects under the umbrella of the three year international CRUNCH (Climate Resilient Urban Nexus Choices) project with locations in Miami and

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Rationale for the Miami and Tokyo Projects

The two facade tectonics research projects as mentioned above in Miami and in Tokyo include multi-objective feedback, semi-automated, automated and generative BIM design analysis and Dynamo optimization workflows that demonstrate

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Conclusion and Future Work

Design and engineering professionals are often unable to adequately explore design alternatives of their impact on energy, water, and resource consumption with GHG's calculations and benchmarks upfront. Unfortunately, for decades

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I would like to thank Sadiel Ojeda, Darren Ockert, Miguel Escobar and Amalia Tomey from the FIU CRUNCH research studios; Julio Cedeno and Miguel Matomoros from Novatecnia in Costa Rica; Karl von de Kries, Solar, California; and Autodesk Elite Expert Karam Baki from Amman in Jordan for their assistance and contributions. Part of this material for the case studies is based upon work supported by the EU BELMONT, Intelligent Europe, National Science Foundation under Grant No. XXXX. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF or FIU in Miami.

Rights and Permissions

1) Oldfield, P., Trabucco, D., Wood, A., Eds.” Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: Chicago, IL, USA.” Available online: http: // (accessed July 15, 2019).

2) ARUP,

3) Wylie, T., Terndrup J., Haddad J., Hautefeuille O., Stenzel G., Travis R., Brault E., Šošić M., Hoch C. (Munich Re). WGP 76 (12) IMIA Working Group Paper MODERN SKYSCRAPERS IMIA Conference 2012, Rio de Janeiro (accessed July 15, 2019).

4) Spiegelhalter T., a.o. Climate Resilient Urban Nexus CHoices (CRUNCH). (accessed July 15, 2019).

5) L.A. Facade Tectonics Institutes Conference in Miami - Speaker Thomas Spiegelhalter, (accessed July 1, 2019)

6) Spiegelhalter T., Andia A. Post-Parametric Automation in Design and Construction. Artech House Boston-london, 2014