Just by looking to any city from an aerial view, we can notice that urban surface is covered mainly by roofs. These surfaces, without activities in most cases, absorb the radiation from the sun and transform it into heat increasing urban temperatures. This effect is known as the urban heat island effect and acquires more importance in warmer climates, where the dissipation of heat in some seasons is crucial.
Image: KVA MATx
The studio KVA MATx, in collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative and the Government of Portugal, has proposed a system of energy harvesting textiles as a tool to use the roofs of 25,000 houses in Porto.
The project Soft Cities “explores the intersection between programmatic uses for clean energy and their aesthetic and political impacts at both the domestic and urban scales.” (KVA MATx)
As a way to reactivate this layer of the city, the project uses the energy from the solar radiation and transforms it into utilizable energy. This urban initiative operates within the clean energy network intersecting the horizontal urban territory with the vertical domestic structures. The proposed canopies constitute an adaptive mechanism that allows for a shaded living space and an energy harvesting system. When sun is not available, the canopies can be retracted and stored. The solar textiles are made by thin-film solar nanomaterials in order to maximize material flexibility and minimize connecting electric busways. The project performs across the fields of architecture, urbanism, engineering, and material sciences, addressing very important urban problems such as the energy balance or the reactivation of spaces.