Today, we are living a difficult tima for architecture and construction. The Crise is affecting this field harder than others and it is important to know, that in architecture, the quality is much more important than the quantity. Respecting the environment is one of the principal goals that architectura is trying to achieve all along the 21st century. We have made a lot of improvements but there is a lot to do yet.
What is bioclimatic architecture?
Building that takes into account climate and environmental conditions to help achieve thermal comfort inside. It deals with design and architectural elements, avoiding complete dependence on mechanical systems, which are regarded as support. (i.e. Using natural ventilation or mixed mode ventilation) Architecture that has a connection to Nature.
Here we have an example about how to use natural resources like orientation, vetnilation, etc to make a construction energetically more efficient
But, does it really work?
Traditional techniques work, and in Spain we know it well: the coolness inside a thick-walled traditional village house at noon in August, the comfort of a traditional patio in Andalucia on a hot day, or how the sun enters through South oriented windows in winter replacing the need for heating. If this works, don’t you think it could be possible, through careful house design, to design houses like this today? Answer–Yes! It is entirely possible to design modern bioclimatic housing and architecture, using natural ventilation, passive solar design, and sustainable materials.
How much does it cost?
A bioclimatic house needn’t be either cheaper nor more expensive, uglier or nicer, than any other. The bioclimatic house doesn’t need the purchase and installation of complicated and expensive systems, but it just uses the regular architectural elements to increase the energetic performance and get a natural comfort. To achieve this, the bioclimatic design imposes a set of guidelines, but there still remains a lot of freedom to design according to individual taste. Siting of the building, consideration of solar access, collection of rainwater, using thermal mass to your advantage, correct fenestration and solar shading all can be taken into account when designing, and the end product you have is a much more energy efficient while being in tune with its surroundings and Nature.
Then, why is bioclimatic architecture is not well known?
Clothes mean much more to us that the need for thermal protection (started simple and sometimes lost to the concept of fashion), housing means more than the need for a comfortable place to live, and may represent, for example, a status symbol. As that symbol, it must adapt to the established standards of status, sometimes ignoring the environment (i.e. McMansions). Energy saving and taking advantage of the sun may not fit into these standards, but having an expensive conditioning system to overheat in winter and overcool in summer every single space in the house (even if it is seldom used) may seem necessary. The cultural inertia of the overdone, is hard to stop, because right now its working.…and energy prices go up.
In despite of sporadic awareness campaigns, publicity takes pride every day to associate saving with discomfort and low status, and waste with easy living and prestige. And it gets the point across: a lot of people associate saving energy to poverty. Science is disregarded, global warming has no real world consequence, energy is wasted, people pay and pay without realizing it. Now our economical system needs us to consume as much as possible so as to keep the wheel going.
The powers that be are strong and they have built a legacy they want to continue. Big companies (the legacy industries) refuse to innovate, lobby to keep the status quo–no energy supply companies is really interested in new technologies for renewable energy, just the new startups. How will they increase their benefits? How will they sell energy if you are making your own, or dont need as much because your new house works better. Air conditioning manufacturers aren’t interested in alternative systems that bust their technology, natural ventilation does not make money.
Architects and builders don’t worry as far as their business goes well, and the consumer, with no information on the topic, cannot demand alternative products he does not know, ever wonder why there is no electric car on your streets or solar panels on your roof? Why would the powers that be want you to get energy for free when they can charge for it?
Slowly, new programs, smart companies, eco citizens are becoming aware of the energy waste problem, and things are babystepping forward–promoting research on the topic and generating new legislation and standards. For example, something as simple as good insulation in buildings to keep heat inside is a topic for legislation of increasing importance. And in a lot of countries institutions (USGBC.org) are appearing to perform research and spread bioclimatic knowledge among architects and builders (like CIEMAT in Spain). Hundreds of books have been written on the topic, and hundreds of projects related some how to bioclimatic architecture have been implemented around the world, and slowly it takes hold.
One of the most important leaders of sustainable architecture is Norman Foster, who is one of the most respected architectural professionals in the world. With his ambitious goals in high tech architecture, he gave Great Britain and the entire world numerous architectural wonders.
media and references: