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Sidewalk Labs tests a ‘building raincoat’ in Toronto

Think of it as a high-tech tent for buildings

Translucent shell covering building Photo: Sidewalk Labs

In a city like Toronto, being outside can be a fairly unpleasant experience for the majority of the year. With hot summers and notoriously cold winters, it’s all too easy for people to hunker down indoors.

Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s smart city company that set up shop in Toronto last year, is testing out an experimental building facade that it hopes will make outdoor life more 365 in the city. Its prototype, the Building Raincoat, is a large plastic structure that hangs off the facade like a giant high-tech awning.

Translucent awning hanging off of building Photo: Sidewalk Labs
Translucent awning hanging off of building Photo: Sidewalk Labs

Developed with architectural studio Partisans and climate engineering firm RWDI, the raincoat is constructed from ETFE, a flexible, translucent plastic that’s been fashioned into an angular swoop that covers the outside of a building like a tent.

The covering attaches to a building’s facade and angles toward the ground, creating a translucent membrane that leaves space between the building and plastic. As Partisan co-founder Alex Josephson told Sidewalk Labs’ blog, “Raincoats can be part of a new building design or can be attached to an existing building. They can be rolled out dynamically to create a sheltered space between the front of a building and the public realm, kind of like the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.”

Sidewalk Labs is testing the raincoat throughout the next year at different construction sites. It will assess the cost, practicality, and effectiveness of the dynamic facade, which Partisans admits is not guaranteed to be a success.

“Will it fail? Maybe. And that’s okay,” he told Sidewalk Labs. “This is real experimentation where the scientific method meets design.”

Via: Fast Company