The Climate Envelope concept is as old as sci-fi, but no one has built one yet because it doesn't work without Low-E and Cloud Gel. The Envelope is simply these materials blown into a big bubble of good weather. While the Weather Panel can make solar heating so ordinary it almost disappears, it also makes possible an entirely new type of architecture based on enclosing a year-round summer climate within a shell of transparent Weather Panels.
The Figure below shows how it works: On cloudy winter days, the Cloud Gel lets in sun or cloudlight to heat the Envelope, but the Low-E prevents this heat from escaping. On hot summer days, the Cloud Gel reflects 95% of sunlight to prevent overheating by turning from clear to white. Trees and other plants absorb sunlight for heat in the winter, give evaporative cooling in the summer, and shade all year. The height of large span envelopes increases natural ventilation by wind and rising hot air. The Climate Envelope maintains a tropical microclimate without external energy for heating, ventilating, or daylighting, even in winters north of cold and cloudy Paris, Boston, or Tokyo.
Through its molecularly designed skin, the Climate Envelope combines shelter functions with energy functions; it can form any useful shape; and it has a large free span without internal supports. Removing the weather protection and structural restraints from the living areas inside buildings produces a corresponding relaxation and personalization of the internal architecture. Activities that now occur inside only for climate reasons will take place in the open air. Under a Climate Envelope the main functions of building are reduced to visual and acoustic privacy, pleasing appearance, storage space, plumbing, and wiring.
When mass produced, the Climate Envelope will cost approximately $35/sq foot (or €240/sq meter) of covered area; not much more than a heated steel warehouse. It canbe individually designed, shipped and erected three weeks after being ordered; and will provide 40 years of shelter, free heat, and illumination. First use will probably be for covering tropical parks, sports arenas, community and/or shopping centers, housing developments, etc. Instead of selling Envelopes, good weather could be rented to developers.
The photos in Figures 1 and 2 show the aptly named Eden Project in England (see edenproject.com): eight transparent domes, each with a different climate, covering 125 acres (or 50 hectares). They contain the 4,000 trees, bushes, herbs, crops, and flowers that are most useful to humans. The Eden designers were eager to use Low-E and Cloud Gel, but Suntek very foolishly declined because their plastic film domes did not fit our chosen market entry point for Cloud Gel: the centralized glass industry. Though they use lots of electricity for heating and cooling, these lush garden domes illustrate the concept of the Climate Envelope. Although five hours from foggy London, the Eden Project has been filled with visitors every day for years. They say these visitors become environmentalists without a word being spoken.
An inexpensive 700 unit apartment building inside a several acre Climate Envelope is shown in Figures 3 to 6. Inside these sometimes translucent, sometimes transparent vaults, four stories of rooms are stacked like stairs. Each apartment has its own garden, which may be used to provide fresh food, water, and air, as shown in Section 9. Year round summer parks, tropical gardens, athletic fields and swimming pools are shaded by tall trees between the rows of apartments, and where the envelope segments join or bend. The same design can be used for a combination of offices, factories, and shopping centers turned into relaxed social centers; a haven from nasty weather. In spite of its lush appearance, this building will cost no more than the drabbest construction. The structural system can be steel beams, or, more economically, the Tensegrity system shown in Section 26.
The photos in Figures 7 and 8 show a model for Suntek's headquarters. It's a Climate Envelope using the Rigid Flexahedron structural system (see Section 28), and is made from triangular Weather Panels. Hedges partition the offices, and trees shade the working areas. The Envelope's top pyramid opens like flower petals for cooling ventilation, as do the 4 corner panels at ground level, taking advantage of the chimney effect and wind direction. The space between the top of the trees and the inside of the envelope is a channel where solar heated, moist (and thus lighter) air rises, pulling with it cooling circulation through the entire envelope. Reflections from the facets simulate their switching between clear and white in patterns responding to changing sun angles and temperatures during the day and the seasons.
The Climate Envelope is an energy processing shelter made from Weather Panels. These Panels may be supported by a variety of structural systems. Some that were invented specifically for the Climate Envelope are shown in Sections 26, 27, and 28.