A student project which won the £5,000 prize for best first exhibit at this year's Royal Academy show could become a reality if research by KSS Architects bears fruit.
Matthew Parkes' 'Fog Catcher' scheme (pictured), which took the AJ and Bovis-sponsored cash prize at a glittering ceremony at the RA in July (AJ 12.7.01), was a theoretical project designed to show how water could be harnessed from sea-fog in the desert of Namibia. Parkes now works for Savile Row-based KSS, which is exploring the potential of the idea with a view to incorporating it into live projects.
The idea is not new - Peruvian villagers have harnessed water from fog for some time (see T&P, AJ 30.11.00) - but the technique is not widespread.
Parkes and partners at KSS believe the idea could prove to be a useful sustainability tool that architects ought to consider. 'It's a good idea and one that's worth investing in, ' said chairman David Keirle. Parkes has already met with engineers from Buro Happold and Adams Kara Taylor, who are advising on environmental services and structural matters respectively. And the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology - a government agency based in Wallingford, Oxfordshire - and the Namibian Desert Research Foundation are also interested in the idea.
'At the moment we're at the stage of trying to put together a team to identify the sort of strategy we need to adopt, ' said Parkes, who has been invited to Iran to share the concept with the ministry of housing. 'There are lots of engineering and environmental issues to be resolved, like how to protect the fog-catching sails during a sandstorm, and how to protect the quality of the water.'
KSS is also working on the principle that the design, once it has been shown to be effective, could be incorporated into the cladding of a wide range of buildings where the twin pressures of tourism and water-scarcity are causing problems.
Namibia and Israel are two prime candidates for the technology.
The amount of water that can be harnessed through condensing fog varies according to a wide range of factors including altitude, temperature and the moisture content of the air. But studies show that 1m 2of netting can generate between one and three litres of water a day.