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BALANCING ENVIRONMENTAL
PERFORMANCE AND
OCCUPANT COMFORT
BALCONY DESIGN FOR A RESIDENTIAL
HIGH RISE TOWER
ALISIA
COMPLETED WITH SOM | PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | 2023
SOM Design Team: Javier Arizmendi, Enrique Acosta, Ty Peterson, Kiran Balakrishna, Pranav Subramanian
ALISIA | pg.2
THE PROBLEM
01 | UNDERSTAND
The Client
ONE Development, a Mexico based
development firm, hired SOM to produce
a design for a 27 story, 225 unit
residential high-rise in Puerto Vallarta.
The Site
The Ask
The client emphasized the importance of
an iconic design that reduced operational
energy costs through high environmental
performance while maximizing property
value through thermal and visual
comfort for the occupants.
ALISIA | pg.3
CLIMATE RESEARCH
Design Considerations for a Tropical Climate
02 | EMPATHIZE
The climate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is described as tropical, with warm and humid conditions throughout the year. According to the weather data,
reducing the building exposure to direct sunlight radiation through shading elements and mitigating humidity levels through porous massing are the
two effective passive strategies in this climate to reduce building energy use and improve occupants thermal comfort.
Data provided by SOM climate research
ALISIA | pg.4
BALCONY RESEARCH
Cooling Loads
02 | EMPATHIZE
According to the building performance simulation, balconies cause a
reduction of 16% of annual cooling loads and up to 25% of peak
cooling loads in residential units. Total annual cooling load reduction
has a direct impact on the building energy use and the peak cooling
load reduction impacts the occupants’ thermal comfort.
Daylight Study
Balconies are very efficient and crucial to reduce the overlit spaces
around the building boundaries. Excess daylight causes non-uniform
indoor temperature across the units and inefficiency of HVAC operation.
It also improves the chance of visual discomfort and glare for occupants.
Data provided by SOM climate research
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH INSIGHTS
02 | EMPATHIZE
Research conducted by Marta Smektała and Magdalena Baborska-Narożny ALISIA | pg.5
Non-Participatory Observation
The following insights were drawn from interviewing 28 residents of the
observed multifamily apartments.
◦ Many residents introduced potted plants onto their balconies or let
vines, such as ivy, grow to “separate themselves from the neighbors.”
◦ Enlargement was the most common interviewee response to a
question regarding a change they would like to see for their balconies.
◦ The interviewees repeatedly expressed an expectation to observe the
environment without being exposed to the public.
The following insights were drawn from observations on a sample size
of 13 apartments, with 3198 balconies observed in total.
◦ The most omnipresent of all objects found on balconies were plants,
observed on 35.6% of all observed balconies.
◦ Extra-large balconies were used almost three times as often as each
of the smaller sizes.
◦ In areas with heavy traffic, one-third of all balconies were equipped
by residents a screen or partition to increase privacy.
Resident Interviews
HOW MIGHT WE ACHIEVE
HIGH ENVIRONMENTAL
PERFORMANCE WHILE
MAINTAINING HUMANISTIC
COMFORT THROUGH
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN?
ALISIA | pg.6
CONTEXTUTAL ANALYSIS
Environmental Performance
03 | DEFINE
Humanistic Comfort
The value of the site can be maximized
by providing residents with
opportunities to take advantage of the
360 degree views and incorporating
green space into the exterior of their
units.
Given Puerto Vallarta’s tropical climate,
actions should be taken in the design of
the tower to mitigate solar exposure
and take advantage of the location’s
strong South and Southwest winds for
cooling relief.
ALISIA | pg.7
STRATEGIC APPROACH
04 | IDEATE
Porous Balconies Design Drivers
Ample balcony room and consistent solar
exposure provides a strong foundation for
growing greenery throughout the building.
Green Space
Deep, spacious balconies seperated by
perforations and privacy screens provide
opportunities for usage by users and take
advantage of the site’s 360 degree views.
Resident Activation
The extended floor plates provide the units
below with shading during summer months to
avoid overlit spaces.
Solar Treatment
Perforations in the floors provide a streamlined
passage of air through the apartment units.
Natural Ventilation
ALISIA | pg.8
Rendering by UVIZ
TOWER DESIGN
05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
ALISIA | pg.9
PASSIVE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
ALISIA | pg.10
BALCONY PERFORMANCE APPROACHES
05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
Environmental Diagrams Design Drivers
Ample balcony room and consistent solar
exposure provides a strong foundation for
growing greenery throughout the building.
Green Space
Deep, spacious balconies seperated by
perforations and privacy screens provide
opportunities for usage by users and take
advantage of the site’s 360 degree views.
Resident Activation
The extended floor plates provide the units
below with shading during summer months to
avoid overlit spaces.
Solar Treatment
Perforations in the floors provide a streamlined
passage of air through the apartment units.
Natural Ventilation
ALISIA | pg.11
FLOOR PLANS
05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
Amenity Floor
Typical Floor A Typical Floor B
ALISIA | pg.12
EXTERIOR VIEWS
05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
Rendering by UVIZ

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ALISIA: HOW MIGHT WE ACHIEVE HIGH ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE WHILE MAINTAINING HUMANISTIC COMFORT THROUGH ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN?

  • 1. BALANCING ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE AND OCCUPANT COMFORT BALCONY DESIGN FOR A RESIDENTIAL HIGH RISE TOWER ALISIA COMPLETED WITH SOM | PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | 2023 SOM Design Team: Javier Arizmendi, Enrique Acosta, Ty Peterson, Kiran Balakrishna, Pranav Subramanian
  • 2. ALISIA | pg.2 THE PROBLEM 01 | UNDERSTAND The Client ONE Development, a Mexico based development firm, hired SOM to produce a design for a 27 story, 225 unit residential high-rise in Puerto Vallarta. The Site The Ask The client emphasized the importance of an iconic design that reduced operational energy costs through high environmental performance while maximizing property value through thermal and visual comfort for the occupants.
  • 3. ALISIA | pg.3 CLIMATE RESEARCH Design Considerations for a Tropical Climate 02 | EMPATHIZE The climate in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is described as tropical, with warm and humid conditions throughout the year. According to the weather data, reducing the building exposure to direct sunlight radiation through shading elements and mitigating humidity levels through porous massing are the two effective passive strategies in this climate to reduce building energy use and improve occupants thermal comfort. Data provided by SOM climate research
  • 4. ALISIA | pg.4 BALCONY RESEARCH Cooling Loads 02 | EMPATHIZE According to the building performance simulation, balconies cause a reduction of 16% of annual cooling loads and up to 25% of peak cooling loads in residential units. Total annual cooling load reduction has a direct impact on the building energy use and the peak cooling load reduction impacts the occupants’ thermal comfort. Daylight Study Balconies are very efficient and crucial to reduce the overlit spaces around the building boundaries. Excess daylight causes non-uniform indoor temperature across the units and inefficiency of HVAC operation. It also improves the chance of visual discomfort and glare for occupants. Data provided by SOM climate research
  • 5. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH INSIGHTS 02 | EMPATHIZE Research conducted by Marta Smektała and Magdalena Baborska-Narożny ALISIA | pg.5 Non-Participatory Observation The following insights were drawn from interviewing 28 residents of the observed multifamily apartments. ◦ Many residents introduced potted plants onto their balconies or let vines, such as ivy, grow to “separate themselves from the neighbors.” ◦ Enlargement was the most common interviewee response to a question regarding a change they would like to see for their balconies. ◦ The interviewees repeatedly expressed an expectation to observe the environment without being exposed to the public. The following insights were drawn from observations on a sample size of 13 apartments, with 3198 balconies observed in total. ◦ The most omnipresent of all objects found on balconies were plants, observed on 35.6% of all observed balconies. ◦ Extra-large balconies were used almost three times as often as each of the smaller sizes. ◦ In areas with heavy traffic, one-third of all balconies were equipped by residents a screen or partition to increase privacy. Resident Interviews
  • 6. HOW MIGHT WE ACHIEVE HIGH ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE WHILE MAINTAINING HUMANISTIC COMFORT THROUGH ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN? ALISIA | pg.6 CONTEXTUTAL ANALYSIS Environmental Performance 03 | DEFINE Humanistic Comfort The value of the site can be maximized by providing residents with opportunities to take advantage of the 360 degree views and incorporating green space into the exterior of their units. Given Puerto Vallarta’s tropical climate, actions should be taken in the design of the tower to mitigate solar exposure and take advantage of the location’s strong South and Southwest winds for cooling relief.
  • 7. ALISIA | pg.7 STRATEGIC APPROACH 04 | IDEATE Porous Balconies Design Drivers Ample balcony room and consistent solar exposure provides a strong foundation for growing greenery throughout the building. Green Space Deep, spacious balconies seperated by perforations and privacy screens provide opportunities for usage by users and take advantage of the site’s 360 degree views. Resident Activation The extended floor plates provide the units below with shading during summer months to avoid overlit spaces. Solar Treatment Perforations in the floors provide a streamlined passage of air through the apartment units. Natural Ventilation
  • 8. ALISIA | pg.8 Rendering by UVIZ TOWER DESIGN 05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
  • 9. ALISIA | pg.9 PASSIVE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS 05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT
  • 10. ALISIA | pg.10 BALCONY PERFORMANCE APPROACHES 05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT Environmental Diagrams Design Drivers Ample balcony room and consistent solar exposure provides a strong foundation for growing greenery throughout the building. Green Space Deep, spacious balconies seperated by perforations and privacy screens provide opportunities for usage by users and take advantage of the site’s 360 degree views. Resident Activation The extended floor plates provide the units below with shading during summer months to avoid overlit spaces. Solar Treatment Perforations in the floors provide a streamlined passage of air through the apartment units. Natural Ventilation
  • 11. ALISIA | pg.11 FLOOR PLANS 05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT Amenity Floor Typical Floor A Typical Floor B
  • 12. ALISIA | pg.12 EXTERIOR VIEWS 05 | PROTOTYPE, TEST, IMPLEMENT Rendering by UVIZ