Reusable Modular Panel-Block Wall Assembly System for the Autonomous Real-time Remote Observatory Project in Antarctica

(Developed for the University of New Hampshire, Aerospace Research Department)

Henri C. Fennell, CSI/CDT

Course Description/Abstract

The goal for this project was to develop a modular building enclosure wall assembly that could provides the following attributes for a research facility at the South Pole, and ultimately for future high-performance construction:

A high-performance (energy-efficient) building enclosure system for extreme climates, controlled environments, and standard energy-efficient construction,

A reusable/sustainable kit of human-scale product components for the green and micro-load construction,

Flexibility in the installed shape – no cutting and no waste,

An easy interface with accessory building materials,

A secure, weather-resistant building system,

Ease and speed of construction, even under difficult working conditions.

The resulting system is completely reusable in its original form, incorporates the means of accommodating usual mechanical systems and performs the structural needs necessary for low-rise buildings or infill curtain wall construction. The integral fastening system and other reusability characteristics allow for installation, demounting, and reinstallation of the components without modification.

The assembled components provide the entire thermal envelope (Insulation, vapor control, air barrier, structure, water resistance, etc). Each component includes interior and exterior skins/facings that can serve as finishes or receive additional surfacing treatments. These facings also provide code-compliant fire protection for the cellular foam or other insulating core material of the panel-blocks. The basic panel-block design is made of molded insulating material(s) that will provide a level of energy performance several times better than that of normal construction (2 watts per square foot). An integral gasketing and attachment system provides a reliable, superior airtight envelope. The profile of the panel-block and the design of the interlocking joints is water shedding. The integral fastening system allows for fast, easy construction by providing a means of structurally connecting the components to each other and to the foundation to form a continuous reinforcing network capable of meeting high wind loads, earth quake loading, and resistance to wind uplift for the roof structure. This connecting system also reinforces the assembled blocks by post-tensioning the blocks together to make it possible to make short spans over window and door openings and creates an effective security grid.

Learning Objectives:

1. Participants will be able to identify how the high-performance materials were chosen to meet the needs of this extreme climate.

2. Participants will be able to apply the methods used in this project to plan their air barrier details so as to achieve ultra-low air leakage values in their building designs.

3. Participants will be able to apply the theory behind the fastening details in the system to improve building performance and reduce thermal bridging.