Aaron Kettl | Part 2 Eco-Gadget
I am a multidisciplinary professional with experience in human centered design, user experience, design strategy and visual communication. My skills are in uncovering and translating customer insights into actionable principles to design around core need. I believe in prototyping as a fundamental tool throughout my design process.
design strategy, user experience, design thinking, design, prototype, prototyping, rapid prototyping, strategy, visual design, mobile design, usability, ios, experience design, MBA, MBA in Design Strategy, DMBA,
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As designers and visionaries of the built environment it is imperative that we look deep into the future to understand the ecological impact of our decisions. We are responsible for our designs so we must be conscientious of our actions. Through this responsible design approach, the field of architecture should be continually expanding in its technological advancement. The ever-expanding knowledge of building materials and environmental systems should be implemented and tested to continually raise the bar of expectation for building performance.
Environmental Integration by Design
In the book Ecodesign: A manual for Ecological Design, Ken Yeang states that, “Many designers wrongly believe that if they stuff a building with enough ecogadgets such as solar collectors, wind generators, photovoltaics and biodigestors then they will instantly have an ecological design. Of course, nothing is further from the truth” (Yeang, 2006). He describes the current approach to improving design performance as aplaca, meaning that these technological systems and devices are applied as extra parts instead of infiltrating them with architecture so the two would become one instead of just an “ecogadget architecture.” Such technology may be part of the ecological designer’s tool kit, but the ultimate objective is “environmental integration by design” (Yeang, 2006).


For a designer to achieve environmental integration they must first understand these technological systems and devices to properly integrate them into a design. For this reason I feel that it is necessary for me to study the devices that I wish to integrate into this thesis. Wind energy is an area of interest, so I will construct and study a wind turbine device and all of its components to understand how it works. This process will provide the understanding needed to integrate it into a design. My goal is to build a residential wind turbine small enough in scale to mount on the roof of a house.

Animaris Percipiere
In human civilization, wind has inspired mythology, expanded the range of transport and warfare, and provided a power source for mechanical work, electricity, and recreation. Theo Jansen is a kinetic sculptor dedicated to creating artificial life through the use of genetic algorithms, which simulate evolution inside their code. He builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals and are able to walk using the wind on the beaches of the Netherlands. This walking species is Animaris Percipiere.


Source: Theo Jansen

Wind Turbine Defined
A wind turbine is a machine that converts the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy through a rotating axle. If the mechanical energy is directly transferred to machinery, such as a pump or grinding stones, the machine is usually called a windmill. If the mechanical energy is converted to electricity, the machine is called a wind generator, wind turbine, wind power unit (WPU) or wind energy converter (WEC). Many different models of wind turbines have been developed but they can all be categorized into two groups: Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) and Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWT).
To understand how different prop shapes affect the performance and ability of a turbine to harness wind energy, I built operating models to analyze how they compare.
1. Horizontal axis three blade prop turbine
2. Two blade Savonious rotor turbine
3. Two blade Double helix turbine
4. Three blade ribbed turbine
Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT)
VAWTs have the main rotor shaft arranged vertically. Key advantages of this arrangement are that the turbine does not need to be pointed into the wind to be effective. This is an advantage on sites where the wind direction is highly variable because they are independent of wind direction. With a vertical axis, the generator and gearbox can be placed near the ground, so the tower doesn’t need to support it, and it is more accessible for maintenance.



This model rotates on a vertical axis that makes it independent of wind direction. The cylindrical blades overlap in the center to direct wind from one blade to the other, creating a negative pressure in the prop to facilitate rotational movement. This model rotates at a very consistent speed. Even when wind is less than 3 mph the prop continues to slowly rotate while the others do not, and when wind speeds increase the prop increases is speed but it never creates vibration.
This model is designed to rotate toward the prevailing wind direction so the force can be distributed to the three blades that spin on a horizontal axis. The prop spins very fast in strong wind compared to the other models but this also results in strong vibrations. It often takes some time before it reorients toward the wind, so there are periods when the prop does not move when the other models do.
Savonious Rotor Wind Turbine
After studying the four different prop shapes, the Savonious rotor was selected because it is easy to construct, it does not produce vibration, it maintains a steady rotational velocity, it is independent of wind direction and it does not put much strain on the bearings because of the vertical axis.
The System
An outer steel frame supports the top and bottom of the rotor axle. The frame also supports the generator and prevents it from flexing. The frame is in a triangular shape to maximize strength, material efficiency, and maintain balance. Each of the three legs is telescopic so that the legs can be adjusted for mounting on sloped terrains and roofs with different pitches.


The prop is made with chloroplast blades that are mounted to an aluminum shaft. The prop is designed to rotate in a counter clockwise direction because of the required rotation of the generator. All bolts must have Locktight on the threads or lock nuts to prevent connections from coming apart which can occur when joints are frequently in motion.


To transfer the rotation of the prop to the generator, a pulley runs along two sheaves of a different diameter to result in a 4:1 ration. This ratio makes the generator spin at a higher revolution per minute (rpm) than the prop. Ball bearings are pressed on to the top and bottom of the rotor axle to minimize friction. These bearings must press into a steel sleeve and the axle must not have any play inside the bearing. Every piece is designed to be easily assembled and disassembled, and it is capable of packing down to a space 8” tall by 42” wide by 72” long.


The generator on a turbine is a vital component in the transferring of kinetic energy into electric energy. The generator puts out direct current (DC) power that can be used to charge batteries or be converted to alternating current (AC) power to be fed into a building’s electrical system. A Permanent Magnet DC Generator is designed for a turbine that rotates at low RPMs and variable speeds similar to a wind turbine. This generator is available through Windstream Power.




I spent over 70 days in a fabrication shop measuring, cutting, welding, and grinding the steel frame to finish the full scale working prototype.


After the prototype was complete, I moved it outside of the shop, and it immediately whirled to life. To my surprise, it worked incredibly well, even at low wind speeds.

With the available technology in the twenty-first century, the advancement of architecture should be rapidly prevalent. If architectural advancement is left solely to the architect then progress will be stifled. Kinetic architecture invites mechanical challenges uncommon to the field of architecture and requires the participation of other trades such as mechanical engineering for mechanical systems and software programming to control the operations of the mechanical systems.


Advancement in this field requires the knowledge of engineering, software programming, material science, physics, and robotics. This complexity requires the collaboration of a team of participants from many fields of knowledge. Because of the difficulty of creating such a team, architecture has yet to push itself in this direction, but this spurring is what is necessary to discover this iceberg of development. Design analysis integration promotes the design process through a team of analysis experts which generates specific design analysis requests, leading to the assistance and input of the team (Augenbroe, Malkawi, & Wilde, 2004).


The result of a collaboration of knowledge in multiple fields could expand the possibilities for architectural design and result in an outcome that is wholly integrated as a machine for optimal performance.