(n)-Fold, 2010
Material: FDA Compliant, Food-Grade Polyethylene (LDPE) Sheeting, Dew Condensing Film, Aluminum, Solar Paneling, PVC foam insulation
Dimensions: 22”h x 17”w x 17”d, or variable
Video Animation: duration: 02:05 mins, dimensions: 720×480

Pronounced “enfold,” (n)-fold is a flat-foldable sculpture and a utilitarian travel system. I began designing the (n)-fold system after my research on river morphology (in conjunction with the Meandering River Project) led me to publications on water scarcity and new water harvesting techniques. What I found is that, while there is now a plethora of relatively affordable rainwater catchment systems on the market, almost all these relied on the presence of static, Western-style structures to be used as a physical support for the water harvesting system. Specifically, most required either a smooth, pitched roof and/ or a gutter system for rainwater to be routed along, eventually draining into a catchment system (or rain barrel). And, while these systems work well for irrigation or gardening purposes, they are generally not efficient for drinking water collection in that they often render the water non-potable. Rainwater naturally washes debris (dust, dirt, bird feces, etc.) down along roof and along gutter paths as it makes its way to the catchment. Any water collected would necessarily then have to be put through several layers of filtration in order to make it potable again.

The lack of water harvesting techniques by which an individual traveler (or nomad) might collect and purify drinking water as they move through a water scarce region was surprising to me. In fact, I discovered only a handful of techniques currently being employed to collect water that did not rely on static, gutter-based structures. This handful of techniques included fog harvesting, cloud harvesting, and various ‘straw’ style filters for use with stagnant water. Of those techniques, only one stood out as viable in arid climates and this was dew water harvesting. Today, only a small number of researchers and international organizations are dedicated to making dew water harvesting a more wide spread method for water collection – which make this an especially interesting area to begin work in.

To formulate a vision for (n)-fold, I focused on the concept of portability and on the exploration of the contemporary relationship between individual traveler/ landscape/ and environment. Dew water harvesting, because it can be done on a small scale and in arid climates, lends itself well to design crafted for personal (i.e. individual) use. The challenge was, how to create a sculptural form that could be collapsible, lightweight and durable, and serve as an efficient dew water-harvesting system?

Inspiration came from crease and fold patterns found in traditional origami forms as well as from contemporary flat-packing techniques. Here I found solutions on how to achieve structures that were beautifully versatile on both a physical and a mathematical level. Most fortunately, these structures required only modest materials in order to be fabricated. After testing many different possible fold patterns, eventually the (n)-fold form took shape. It is a pattern that easily folds down into a small, flat profile and which can just as easily unfold, in a flower-like manner, to reveal a large surface area for dew harvesting. The origami-inspired form of (n)-fold has a minimal material weight. Its structure is made of an FDA-compliant, food-grade polyethylene onto which, when unfolded, the dew condensing film hangs.

Further testing and observation on the (n)-fold form revealed its potential to serve as a modular housing multiple other uses. When unfolded, the three sides which make up the ‘bowl’ portion of the structure sit at a 30 degree angle to the sun. This is both an optimal angle for collecting the sun’s rays in the form of heat for solar cooking, and in the form of energy for a solar-paneled charging station. The shape of (n)-fold further lends itself to arrangement as an array, which together create an effective automated shade canopy (i.e., thermal screen) for use across building façades.

The flat-packable (n)-fold form and its series of applications are currently in the prototyping stage. Initial prototyping of the first (n)-fold array was completed for the Light Green Light exhibition in collaboration with CRCA (the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts) and the MAE (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Program) fabrication lab at UCSD (University of California, San Diego). Currently I am also researching the effectiveness of using passive solar (UV) exposure in the process of purifying the dew water as it is collected.

Studies show that even in urban areas, most rainwater has only minor amounts of pollutants and is generally potable. From Beysens, D., M. Muselli, M. Mileta, I. Milimouk, C. Ohayon and E. Soyeux (2004). “Is dew water potable? Physical, Chemical and Biological Characteristics of Dew on Atlantic Coast (Bordeaux, France), Mediterranean Coast (Zadar, Croatia) and Mediterranean Island (Ajaccio, Corsica Island, France)”, Proceedings: Third International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection and Dew, Cape Town, South Africa, October 11 – 15.

For more information on Dew Harvesting, please visit OPUR, The International Organisation for Dew Utilization, http://www.opur.fr/

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