03 Jul Bioclimatic Architecture by Mykonos Cerámica
The main objective of architecture today is to “need less,” and this applies to any demand that involves resource consumption. In architecture, achieving this goal involves maximizing the characteristics of the location, which must be addressed in both the design and construction of buildings and the habits of their users.
Designing under these criteria requires knowledge of the available resources in each location. These resources include not only those provided by nature – sun, wind, geothermal energy, water, or air temperature – but also those residual resources from nearby activities – heat, kinetic or potential energy, etc. Zero-energy architecture combines these resources with the demands required by the building’s activities to achieve minimal consumption.
Once the available resources and the needs of the building’s activities are known, the goal is to connect them through architectural design. An important part of this process lies in considering the construction and user demands and increasing the performance of the resources used, with the order of these two factors being fundamental for zero-energy design.
Demand can be minimized by rethinking the habits of the building’s occupants – Will they accept expanding the range of acceptable thermal comfort? Can they tolerate shorter showers or dry toilets if water is limited or nonexistent? – It can also be reduced by implementing passive architectural strategies that make the most of the environmental conditions. For example, if heating is required, orienting the architecture to take advantage of sunlight will be beneficial. Efficiency and reuse
The performance of the resources used can be maximized either through active strategies that improve system efficiency or through recycling strategies. The former involve incorporating more efficient solutions, such as using lighting with motion detectors or appliances that use less water than usual. The latter involves using the same resource more than once.
For example, reusing water for the sink, toilet tank, and irrigation through storage, filtering, and purification solutions. In conclusion, to design under zero-energy criteria, the first step is to reduce demand and then increase the performance of the employed resource. This will determine the necessary consumption that will be supplied in a renewable and locally sourced manner.
Thinking from the beginning
A recent study in Ghana has demonstrated the influence of passive architecture on the thermal comfort of hospitals. The climate in this African country is tropical, with high heat and humidity conditions, making solutions that promote natural ventilation and solar protection essential. By incorporating bioclimatic design strategies, the percentage of time the operational temperature of the interior space exceeds 30°C drops from 40% to 10%. Furthermore, there is a decrease of over 90% in the number of users reporting thermal discomfort.
In the standard solution, 5.5 out of 10 people would consider the indoor environment too hot, whereas in the solution designed under bioclimatic criteria, less than one out of ten people, on average, experiences thermal discomfort. This comparison demonstrates the influence that the early design phases of a project have on the building’s lifespan, reducing operational costs for hospitals and increasing the thermal comfort of their occupants.
Architecture that consumes less is found in extreme environments. Analyzing designs in habitats such as the desert, Antarctica, underwater environments, or even Mars allows us to learn about demanding construction strategies that optimize local resources for the benefit of the building’s use and its occupants. The lessons drawn from these experiences are valuable for the sites we typically work with, advocating for a more environmentally conscious and zero-energy – or nearly zero-energy – architecture.