Sea Shell (CRS-II)

Designed as an incubator for Research and Development, Sea-Shell (CSR-II) derives its key attributes from the strength and geometry from a ridged oceanic creature.  Its geometry is intrinsically fluid and stylistically ridged, providing a large enough surface area for SECS (Solar Energy Capture Systems) for a low energy environmental impact.  With much of the program being developed at sub grade levels, the concept is based on the ability to create a stable thermal environment with limited daylight penetration into lab spaces. This facility is primarily intended for regions where snow and wind do impact performance and energy usage.

As a closed-loop building system that addresses the demands of its occupants within its programmatic structure, Seashell can provide all of its onsite electrical generation needs. In addition, this system is derived from the quantifiable demands of both humans and the functioning system itself.  The Closed-Loop standards are used based on the size and configuration of supporting architecture because both energy and water are critical for the functioning of multiple mechanical systems. Its program calls for offices and research labs with targeted daylight exposure for conducting sensitive research in a highly collaborative environment, thus resulting in a primarily subterranean design wherein 75% of its internal spaces are below grade, with glazing and direct view being provided for common and general office spaces.  Moreover, Seashell can not only provide the space to accommodate various types of labs, it also provides the amenities of a cutting-edge campus for its size.  An important feature that helps sustain its performance is that the bulk of its interior is embedded into the earth that maintains a constant annual temperature of 50-degrees Fahrenheit.

Its simple geometry is based on a vaulted sphere that is replete with a natural advantage of inherent strength.  For example, as thin as an egg is, its shell can support weight of objects many times its size towing to its sheer ability to diffuse energy through its curved structure.  This shape-related decision makes all the difference when considering the strength and durability of buildings.  As a new approach of planning for every constituent to be as strong as possible with energy enhancing characteristics is something that is needed in the construction industry.  There are many other unseen advantages of its shell.  For example, the workings of its surface allow greater distribution of light to be reflected into its spaces.  However, the nature of light is to travel in curved waves, and the curved ceiling merely acts as a plane for a photon to travel.  In addition, the longitudinal slit along the shell allows solar energy from the southern exposure to wash down into the well of the building.  This feature helps illuminate the atrium, lower deck and ladder. Furthermore, the interior ribs of the shell also impart a benefit; they add rigidity and create channels for hotter air to be funneled through the roof vents.  Furthermore, they reduce the level of ambient noise, thereby making the spaces quieter and creating subtle variations of light for glare reduction.

The surface nodes are a fully retractable system that is fully integrated into its envelope.  When the system is deployed, a reduction ensues of solar glare from the southern exposure.  In addition, they act as heating elements during the colder months by building skylights into its upper surface during the summer months.  Essentially, by having a filtering system that channels daylight into a built-in a fiber optic collector, additional sunlight is transmitted into areas in the northern side of the building.    There is also the added feature of greater surface area for heightened ventilation from lateral prevailing winds for added convection

Seashell has what is described as a photonic skin, as opposed to typically providing shelter from the elements, where it roofs system also provides energy for the Seashell.  The Photonic skin located on the southern exposure is constructed with the embedment of photovoltaic cells that convert solar radiation into electricity.  The source of energy with multiple uses not only makes this total package more efficient, it also provides the Seashell with the typical traits of an organism, where it taps solar energy to help metabolize and activate inner processes.



  • Latham, NY



  • Research Institution


Systems and Technologies:

  • Proprietary



  • Height - 27 ft

  • Floors - 3

  • Gross Area - 45,000 ft^2


Active Systems:

  • Proprietary

  • Solar Electric Generation

  • Night Purge Ventilation

  • Electric Light Motion Control

  • Chemical Emergency Lighting System

  • Fiber Optic Data Network

  • Natural Gas Emergency Power Supply

  • Automated Daylight Reflection System

  • HVAC


Passive Systems:

  • Proprietary

  • Roof Daylight Apertures

  • Earth Sheltering Temperature Stabilization

  • Airflow induced natural ventilation

  • Solar Chimney Air Convection

  • Chemically Active Humidity Control

  • Solar Radiation Water Heating System

© 2020 by OpDes Architecture, P.C.

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