Dip 16 (2013-2014)

Lam Kwong Kit Jerry – 30/01/2014

Research abstract – Thermal Archipelagos




Urban expansion should base not only on developing new source of primary energy, but also rethink its consumption pattern and develop alternative strategies for secondary energy. The London Mayor’s Decentralized Energy Capacity Study (2011) suggests that by 2030, 22% of London’s heat and power could be efficiently generated locally, where the heat is distributed via heat networks.1


Historically the major challenge of decentralized energy scheme has been the political resistance arisen from insufficient maintenance and investment funding. Hence, the investigation focuses on infrastructural intervention that fosters thermal exchange (energy) and investment incentives (economic) and how this provide strategies for regenerative urban expansion.




The objective is to develop an instrumental architecture deployable in a variety of contexts driving a range of material production (prototype development and revenue generation) and immaterial productions (knowledge exchange and business opportunities).2


Surplus heat serves as the major instrument to form urban fabrics and communities. Densification is hypothesized to be productive as they open up ways to exchange and cascade energy consumption. Various heat-demanding programmes can be introduced foster the social interactions and development of communities. On a metropolitan or territorial scale, the formation of clusters in strategic locations contributes to a larger network of exchange (an energy grid / innovation clusters grid).




East London dock water is the rarely unutilized public space scattered along Thames that can also act as heat sink. Contrast to conventional inclination towards outward sprawling, developing energy infrastructure on unused dock water is an alternative that densifies the existing urban fabric in a configurative manner which can foster sustainable urban expansion at strategic locations along the Thames river. The new infrastructure aims to distribute secondary heat and electricity northwards and southwards to support urban expansion in such directions.


Heat transfer and energy consumption pattern become critical instruments forming community in the future. New community decides ways to utilize and bridge the gap on the temperature scale. Investment, employment and education opportunities will benefit local dockland residents while remaining coherent to their identity. Since investment behaviour and  phasing strategies are decisive in urban expansion, the infrastructure should devise modular construction system that allow the inhabited community to expand or shrink in an organic manner. 3


[Design criteria]


The design of new research + housing typology formulates a critique against conventional campus and housing typologies in terms of its thermal performance and hence the associated social behavior. Archipelago typology is investigated to provide a new lifestyle of separation and clustering capitalizing the physical environment on existing dock water specific to future East London development that relies on R&D light industries. The investment incentives generated from the new typology shall provide maintenance and development funding that sustains the urban fabric, as a response to the decay of decentralized energy scheme in the past decades.


[Anticipated outcome]


The result constitutes pattern changes in local energy consumption and production. Surplus heat energy enables new programs to inhabit on site as the community develops while reduce operation of primary energy power plants. This in turn reduces pollution generated from traditional power production system and contributes to a cleaner Thames waterfront. The investigation seek to provide solutions for cities that rely heavily on port trading activities a solution to lower carbon footprint in larger strategic context.




1. The utilization of secondary heat sources via district heating networks has the potential to be viable at scale. The estimated maximum quantity of secondary heat that could be effectively used (24,900 GWh/year) represents approximately 24% of London’s current heat and power demand. This suggests by utilizing secondary energy alone would exceed the Mayor’s overall strategic target of supplying 25% of the heat and power used in London from localized, decentralized energy systems.


2. Private interests is often seen as a detrimental factor for the undesirable urban conditions (CIAM’s Charter of Athens). RDM Rotterdam Campus demonstrates reconciliation of public and private interests.  It is therefore hypothesized that programmatic arrangement can be crucial to urban development as it sets up the agenda and positions of various economic forces .


3. From my initial investigation departing from purely energy consumption/ production perspectives, infrastructure based on regenerating energies tend to form a segregated part of the city; while infrastructure based on adaptive re-use that inject social programmes can bring in human resources, which ultimately seek a spectrum of environmental solutions.




Thermal behaviour, secondary heat recovery, steam power and mechanics, molten salt heat system, modular construction system, floating structure

Investment behaviour, dockland identity, typologies for mass knowledge exchange, archipelagos typologies

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