Monthly Archives: October 2013
Much of contemporary buildings are so tightly sealed and regulated by HVAC systems, they seem to produce their own ideal environments. Sure it’s nice to enter a cool building during a hot summer day, but the constant pumping of air throughout buildings uses vast amounts of energy. Imagining a building that doesn’t use air conditioning system is so hard today and even shocking to most people, but with a continuing decrease in natural resources that power much of electricity today, changes are inevitable. When I think of buildings becoming more sustainable, I often think of ways they can use more renewable energies, however the Addington article opened my mind to new design strategies that could take place in building envelopes. Addington’s new perspective of utilizing building envelopes as not simply a division between interior and exterior boundaries, but as a thickened surface allows for new operations to take place.
Pre-conceived notions that building envelopes should be tight and not allow for any mixture of inside and exterior air qualities may have seemed inventive with the creation of HVAC systems, but I think in hindsight have created indirect problems such as health. In the nineteenth century, access to fresh air was deemed important in order to avoid tuberculosis and an increase in building ventilation produced more permeable buildings (Addington 14). Now that we have seen the failure of twentieth century HVAC systems, more architects seek to incorporate innovative building skins. Located in Irun, Spain, Hoz Fontan Architects utilized the building skin as a place that buffered the intense sun and also cooled the interior environment by collecting breezes from the Mediterranean Sea (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Exterior view of the Tower designed by Hoz Fontan Architects
From afar the building seems to be like a normal tower, however, by pulling the building skin away from its interior structure, the architects created spaces that allowed for inhabitation. The eight-story building becomes a rectangle that is wrapped up in semi-translucent glazing, which acts as a weather barrier (inhabitat.com). These in between spaces create hallways and interior courtyards that are filled with natural plants that also filter and cool the surrounding air (See Figure 2).
Figure 2:Views of interior courtyards and walkways throughout building
The courtyards created by the thickened skin are both relaxing and peaceful but also provide a natural way of ventilation. I think by looking at architecture through this lens of innovation and thinking about how we can begin to incorporate more sustainable and resilient solutions. Not only does the building reduce the need for HVAC systems, it also provides operable windows in which residents can control the amount of wind that is let in into their individual units. Units also open up onto smaller gardens and doors are able to be open to allow fresh airflow into units (See Figure 3). Unlike HVAC systems, the windows are oriented in a way that captures cross-breezes, is more controllable for individuals and doesn’t use excess energy when unwanted and not needed. I often find myself sitting in classrooms that are too cold and use vast amounts of energy just to cool the temperature of the air. I agree although in theory it seems as though a tighter building envelope would be more ideal for individuals, more innovative ways of embracing openness and porosity within the building skin is more profound. Using energy systems that are already available to us, without the need to produce excess energy already reduces that amount of energy buildings are consuming and the amount of natural resources that are vanishing.
Figure 3: View into a private resting courtyard
Today there are even more studies concerned with individual health and HVAC systems that are so concerned with regulating building temperatures. “The necessary thermal exchanges for maintaining the health of the body have much larger tolerances than those
that determine sensation, and are also located in different regions of the body” (Addington 16). More studies are proving that being inside constantly regulated temperatures are having negatively impacts on human health. Diseases such as cancer are being studied and possibly linked to buildings that have little no access to fresh natural air. Increased exposure to fresh air and nature also provides mentally relaxing spaces for people. Alternatives to HVAC systems are not only energy saving methods but also provide new opportunities for creative solutions that better everyday life for a variety of people.
The vernacular building that I selected was a typical house in Charlottesville, VA that included a front porch. Front porches were places for residents to cool off in the summer time before air-conditioning existed. Here are some photos of a house with a porch located on Grady and 13th Street in Charlottesville.
The house’s porch faces the Southeast and the roof protects it from harsh direct sunlight.
My objective for designing a system in Charlottesville would to extend the use of living areas throughout the colder times of the year. According to the psychometric chart, heating and adding dehumidification was the most effective during the cold months. I wanted to focus on systems that could gain heat in the winter but would also be able to respond to the warmer months and reduce heat gain. The chart shows that the most effective systems are Heating, internal heat gain, and passive solar direct gain low mass.
The systems I focused on explored various ideas about how to gain heat in a specific room or building but were also adoptable to the warmer and more humid months Charlottesville experiences.
What is architecture? This question has changing answers throughout history. From primitive structures that were once for the sole purpose of shelter, to complex building systems that address a multitude of problems, architecture has evolved to become so many things. Today, our society is constantly changing and the idea of adaptable buildings has created new possibilities for exploration of design. However, our world is changing so quickly that new designs are quickly becoming old and not addressing long-term issues. One of the most complex issues to address is changing weather conditions.
As weather conditions are rapidly changing, the storms have become larger and stronger. In the past thirty-five years, the number of category four and five storms has greatly increased along with the temperature of the ocean (nrdc.org). In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was a warning sign that our current infrastructure and cities along coastlines are not resilient and do not have the ability to adapt to drastic weather patterns and storms. When New Orleans was built under sea level, no one would ever imagine that it would also face huge a devastating storm such as Hurricane Katrina. Now that we have learned about the possible disasters that can destroy current modes of design we must rethink the ways in which we design our cities and the ways in which buildings can respond to weather patterns.
As ocean temperatures rise, the current weather patterns are predicted to change and the number of intense rainstorms is also predicted to increase (nrdc.org). With all of these different weather patterns and advancements in technology, architecture has the possibility to design cities that are more resilient. Buildings can become more than shelter and act as a barrier to changing weather. Since weather patterns are predicted to become warmer and wetter, air conditioning units will become more inefficient and will need to work harder in order to create a cooler livable environment for humans. As temperatures become warmer and more humid, architects will have to create buildings that will be able to create a thermal comfort zone without the increase in energy consumption. As discussed in class, tropical climates elevate homes from the floor to promote natural ways of ventilation. According to the pyschrometric chart, natural and fan ventilation prove to be the most successful cooling methods in humid and hot climates. Raising buildings from the ground will also be useful to avoid flooding from rainfalls and intense storms such as hurricanes.
Here is a building that responds to the natural flooding of a lake by building the home elevated from the ground so when the river is flooded as shown below, the home still remains above the water.
Architecture has the ability to expand drastically to rethink just design and also respond and create systems that adapt to the long-term possibilities of weather patterns. By looking at architecture in a lens beyond design, the possibilities in which architecture can address these problems are greatly expanded. According to Lechner, the four factors that contribute to a change in heat are air temperature, humidity, air movement, and mean radiant temperature (Lechner 60). As discussed in the readings buildings have become thermal barriers in the past to reduce heat loss. In future we can think of architecture acting as a thermal barrier that promotes the cooling of air and ventilation. Skins of buildings have now become more active in thinking about their role in the environment and are becoming a system that addresses specific environmental needs. For example, Thom Faulders designed the Airspace building in Tokyo, Japan which utlilizes the skin of the building as a protective shield and method of privacy. The skin still allows for diffused light to enter into the house and also filters and stores rainwater. The skin allows for privacy and also functions to protect the home.
Here is an example of the foliage like skin that protects the building from harsh sunlight and filters water.
These unique methods are progressive ways for rethinking the way architecture can respond to our environment and create new dwelling places. Architecture can be many things and by adapting to long-term problems of our environment, they can be both protective shelter and also control our living environments
Housing is one of the most integral parts of society. Homes provide shelter and are a center for where people live. However, many American homes and apartment complexes don’t meet basic health principles. Nearly six million households live with moderate to severe safety and health hazards (greenandhealthyhomes.org). These hazards place homes for at-risk illnesses and injuries including asthma, lead poisoning, slip and falls, and respiratory illnesses. Hazards in homes include inadequate ventilation systems, which not only lead to poor circulation of fresh air but also allow for mold and moisture to ruin homes and residents’ health. Poor ventilation also contributes to concentration of contaminates inside the home. This provides a dangerous condition for residents and increases the risk of respiratory illnesses. Humans spend so much time within the home it is important to rethink living environments. Everyday life takes place within people’s homes so the health of homes has an even greater impact on human health.
In recent works, communities and builders have become more aware on the dangers of unhealthy homes and begun to take steps in creating healthier homes. Furthermore, the National Center for Healthy Housing is studying how the incorporation of green building into low-income housing rehabilitation projects can promote health and reduces environmental exposures (nhhc.org). My precedent I studied was research article on the rehabilitation of the Wheeler Terrace Apartments in Washington D.C.. This particular rehabilitation project looked to connect green design to improve the health conditions and the well being of its residents. This particular project renovated the apartment complex, which was filled with dangerous indoor living conditions such as, leaking buildings and plumbing, inadequate ventilation, mold and mildew, as well as pest. The residents who lived here were also facing serious respiratory illnesses and in 2004 chronic respiratory disease was the seventh leading cause of death for children under the age of one in the City’s district. These dangerous conditions were not only impacting the residents’ physical health, but was also creating an environment that felt neglected. The feeling of neglect was seen in the high crime neighborhood, depreciated buildings, and an unsafe neighborhood.
Wheeler Apartments before the renovation
The green renovations to the apartment were carefully considered based on cost, durability, life-cycle costs, and health and environmental impacts (nchh.org). The renovated project included green elements such as geothermal heat pumps, fresh air ventilation systems, a community garden, and a storm water filter system. After the renovations, the National Center for Healthy Housing conducted research to trace the impacts on the residents who returned to the community. Since the renovations the neighborhood has experienced a decrease in crime as well as an increase in time spent outside by residents. Air samples were taken both before and after the renovation and are continuing to show air that is no longer contaminated by dust, mold and other hazards. The renovation also unexpectedly removed many stress triggers previously seen in residents. Furthermore, by using geothermal heat pumps and other green features save residents money and free them of high electric bills. It is proven that low-income households typically spend fourteen percent of their income on energy cost, compared to three and a half percent for other households (greenandhealthyhomes.org). I was particularly inspired how this renovation projected not only impacted its resident’s physical health, but also lead to a better mental health for the residents.
Wheeler Apartments after the renovations took place
My diagrams seek to go one step further than the renovations of the Wheeler apartments, and seek to change the way we think of clustering apartments together. My diagram seeks to interrupt the average apartment complex with a series of outdoor porches that are connected to individual units. By attaching each indoor space with its own outdoor space, I hope to improve the overall airflow that enters the building. These porches will also be spaces for residents to enjoy year round. By stacking other apartments on top of each other, the direct sunlight is blocked by the story above it. This allows for residents to have their own private spaces that are well lit and open enough to gain fresh airflows, which will eliminate the concentration of air contaminants. When situated perpendicular to the direction of the wind, these porches will provide a natural way of ventilation. Winds from the porches will pass through individual apartments through windows and will eliminate moisture and high risk of mold and mildew in a cramped apartment. In addition, these porches will allow residents to have their own green spaces in which they can grow gardens, let their children play, and spend more time outside. Residents will no longer have to deal with the stress of paying high energy bills and will create a safe outdoor environment. The aim is to use natural ventilation and light to cut down on energy cost, while also forming a connection between the residents and nature, ultimately aiming to reduce stress and improve respiratory health.