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The Reef is a net-positive-energy boutique hotel that adaptively re-uses an existing building from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Its primary concern is to serve an ecologically and environmentally sound hotel experience. The program consists of hotel rooms, conference rooms, and a restaurant that serves the greater campus. The Reef's hotel rooms, or 'pods', expand in order to conserve energy usage when not occupied by guests. Formally, The Reef takes the concept of contraction and expansion literally by utilizing an origami-based and coral-inspired kinetic skin system that can be manually manipulated by each hotel guest. The resultant daily energy used by the hotel is offset by renewable wave energy produced by an offshore rig. Through its design concept, The Reef highlights the customization of space, which the project advocates to be the future of the hospitality industry.

COMPETITION ENTRY La Jolla, California

The Reef

PROJECT COLLABORATORS Hannah Grammon, Tabitha Darko

View from the Pier
Lobby Entrance
Inner Atrium
Inside a Pod

The existing building is Hubbs Hall at UC San Diego at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It's situated on the coastline and has a view of Scripps Pier.


The average wave density at this latitude and longitude is 30 kW/m - a measurement that becomes useful when harnessing wave energy.

32°52’02.8”N 117°15’12.5”W

The Reef is powered by wave energy.


This experimental rig, developed by scientists in Denmark, captures the waves' kinetic energy and converts it into electricity. The rig can safely host marine life, making it an appropriate addition to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography on which The Reef is sited.

Hubbs Hall photograph copyright: Phillip Colla /

There are two building-wide systems that contribute to net-positive energy use. The first is grey water phytoremediation, achieved through green wall panels on the ocean-facing side of the building. The second is solar radiant heating, achieved through solar collectors mounted on the roof level of the building.

Phytoremediation is a process by which grey water, or relatively clean wastewater from sinks and kitchen appliances, is naturally filtered for re-use. Certain plants are selected for their roots' filtration abilities. They're fixed to the side of the building and hosted by a growth medium that also aids in water filtration. Clean water is then recycled through the building's supply.

Radiant heating allows the building's heat to be transferred through the floor rather than through vents above head height. Instead of harvesting solar energy, collectors on the roof heat water which is then directed through pipes embedded in the floor slabs of the building. Since heat rises, visitors get much more use out of this process. In addition, La Jolla's climate means that this heating system is only used for 1-2 months per year, a significant energy savings from automated, year-round systems.

Renovation of the existing building involved three actions:


1 - the building was stripped down to its existing structure and floor slabs, removing all rooms and hardware


2 - the restaurant annex was added


3 - the pods were inserted into the existing structural grid

523.2 kWh/day

751.2 kWh/day

15.57 kWh/day

67 kWh/day

13 kWh/day

11.8 kWh/day

162 kWh/day

1545 kWh/day

9.39 kWh/sf/year

7000 kWh/hour

168,000 kWh/year

The Reef - Total Energy Usage

The Wave Dragon - Total Energy Generation

The hotel room pods are the primary habitable space within the project. Each pod consists of two areas - the fixed entry and bathroom vestibule, and the collapsible/extendable living space. Via a pulley system close to the door, users can extend a floor (containing their bed) that also pushes out the kinetic skin, creating a unique and customizable living experience. The skin and pulley system are entirely powered by user, meaning that the expansion and collapse of each pod consumes no energy.

The permanent plumbing for bathroom fixtures necessitated a fixed portion of each pod. When the pod is collapsed, it forms a solid wall and the entry vestibule is fairly narrow. Once the wall is expanded using the pulley, the skin's perforated and transparent panels allow natural light into the room.

The kinetic skin's patterning was based on Ron Resch's groundbreaking origami work. It is self-structuring and organically influenced, which inspired the name of the project - The Reef. The tessellated pattern recalled images of coral reefs and their organic self-structuring.

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