A closed-loop green infrastructure system: meet Flux

Meet the 2021 PSU Cleantech Challenge finalist



Building transformation is usually the stuff of science fiction. But Randi Lacy and her innovation, which she calls Flux, brings buildings to life with sustainable systems that move to adapt to their environment and create what Lacy calls a closed-loop green infrastructure system.

But how does a building move and adapt? A variety of ways, it turns out. To illustrate, Lacy provides the example of solar heating. With Flux’s sustainable design, the building exterior could transform to provide the most solar heat, warming a building when it needs to be. Similar designs could provide better lighting conditions or ventilation.

Currently a second-year master’s student in architecture at Portland State University, Flux will compete in April in the Cleantech Challenge, Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship’s innovation challenge for sustainable technology.

“Flux is working alongside my thesis, which is applying these ‘eco-kinetic’ principles to architecture. So taking an adaptive environmental approach to provide sustainable structures that adapt to the use and adapt to climate,” Lacy said. “The route I'm taking is to design structures that can be used in public market scenarios.”

To showcase ideas of sustainable design, Lacy will focus on a public market in her hometown, Dexter, Missouri, a small town of 7,800 about 3 hours south of St. Louis. More sustainable spaces like the ones Lacy designs could allow the market to operate year-round. “It is a huge part of the culture and the life there,” Lacy said. Dexter’s climate is chilly in winter and hot in the summer, often with disruptive thunderstorms.

Climate change is on the agenda, and Flux could make an enormous difference in the carbon impacts of buildings. “Embodied carbon in building materials and construction, as well as building operations, accounts for almost 40 percent of the total global emissions,” Lacy said. 

“Embodied carbon” accounts for the energy used throughout the life cycle of building materials, including production. Reducing the carbon impact of buildings is one of the most important ways to fight climate change, and Lacy is using sustainable design to reduce emissions.

“That’s where climate responsiveness comes in to create a net-zero infrastructure that passively responds without having to use fossil fuels for heat or cooling, reducing those mechanical systems that are bad for the environment,” she said.

But it’ll also make the quality of life better for the people in her hometown, and for that reason, Flux could be a win-win.

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