Shalini Chandrashekar, principal designer and co-founder of Taliersyn – Design & Architecture, writes that the case for sustainability is of paramount importance and relevance in the present day and future.
Architects are increasingly faced with the dilemma of building something that answers the immediate fanciful demands of their clients or orchestrate responsible end-user behaviour for generations at the inhabitant’s end.
The case for sustainability
The proposition of taking contemplative pauses that yield intimacy and delight often seems unattainable in modern-day living. Resisting the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life doesn’t come naturally to any of us these days. But acknowledging the psychological distress that fast-paced lifestyles are posing on our physical and mental well-being has become crucial.
Back in the day, when people weren’t so blinded by the allure of modernity and took time to unwind themselves in the lap of nature and the arms of their loved ones, daily routines did not turn exhaustive as quickly as they do now. With the electronic skein rapidly winding around us, there is a pressing need to identify the importance of hosting built environments that iterate a harmonious lifestyle.
Throughout humanity’s life history, evolution has been central to its synergy with nature. We, as human beings, are inextricably bound to the well-being of our environment. We thrive when our natural surrounding thrives. Since its prevalence, architecture has helped humans to devise this affiliation with its context through tangible curations.
But amid the prevalent technocratic paradigm, where we have resourcefully restructured all aspects of earthly life; it becomes an architect’s social responsibility to identify with the urge to express affinity towards nature where an environmental disaster seems to be pending.
Seeking the well-being of current and future generations within the limits of the natural world, architects are now trying to strike a balance between how short-term interests at the individual and organisational levels are at odds with the global systems and communities in the longer run.
Today’s conscious design behaviour at the architect’s end can orchestrate responsible end-user behaviour for generations at the inhabitant’s end. Whereas end-use behaviour can determine what happens in a situation, design behaviour often determines the case itself. While the end-user is an office worker deciding whether to put on a sweater or turn up the air conditioning device, the architect decides whether to heat that office with renewable solar energy or with mechanical systems powered by fossil fuels.
An architectural design that does not contemplate its local and global repercussions and fails to adapt to the ever-evolving future dynamics becomes infeasible for subsequent generations. Individual comfort can only be endured if achieved collectively with a sustainable consciousness on a larger scale.
Design practices worldwide, have started feeling accountable for devising socially equitable development that is respectful of nature now more than ever and, have started resorting to new approaches towards more sustainable energy usage in buildings. While technological advances pose some challenges in creating contextually sound built forms, its progressive attributes in terms of modern innovations ease the desperation to rely on natural resources. Contemporary practices like opting for solar panels, incorporating automation systems, or imbibing something as fundamentally classic as rainwater harvesting can contribute a fair share in taking care of our atmosphere.
But the pursuit of sustainability doesn’t come easy. It is a layered and interdependent network of judgments and decisions shaped by specific socioeconomic contexts and must consider both existing and preferred states of complex Anthropocene situations. Along with which architects also face challenges while narrating their environmental concerns to the clients who, on most days, are inspired by the fanciful ideas and foreign concepts for their dream abodes that might not sanction a contextually inclusive design intervention. Working on tight schedules and a decline in skilled labour furthers this dilemma on the creator’s side when, as a designer, all he aspires for are meaningful and appropriate design solutions.
We, as architects, hustle with the situational impositions and invest all our will in crafting architectural volumes that strike equilibrium amid the user, nature and the context. We identify with the moral sense of safeguarding the environment and composing poetic architectural vocabulary derived from human behaviours in response to its habitat.
Spaces rooted in the landscape and inspired by the local vernacular have been apparent in introducing a healthy living experience and motivating productivity in the work-life. Tethered to user experience and sustainability, these spatial identities offer a deeper resonance with harmonious life patterns by inducing a contextually inclusive built environment.
Conclusively, in today’s time when chronic modifications to the environment have registered a direct impact on our quality of life and health, holistically curated sustainable built forms willingly induce a sense of calmness among its inhibitors by offering them a contemplative pause they rightfully deserve amid their fast-paced lifestyles.
Another distinguishing element of the furniture pieces is the way they reference architecture, with the Bench 01 recalling an arched bridge. The structures are also meant to be self-supporting and simply slotted together.
“We’re looking for the architecture in a furniture object,” said studio co-founder Christian Vennerstrøm Jensen.
“The idea is that you can build our work and take it apart again,” he continued. “The bench is joined by elements into a structure that is stable and strong enough for you to sit on, and the bedside tables are simply stacked together.”
Bench 01 is made of solid walnut timber that is CNC routed, while the pair of Bedside Tables — one right, one left — is smooth Portuguese rosa marble with “a deliberate overzealous use of material” and hidden backlighting.
Bahraini-Danish was founded in 2016, with Jensen working from Copenhagen and co-founders Batool Alshaikh and Maitham Alumbarak from Bahrain.
Chances are that over the last few months you’ve found yourself trying to adapt to a new working environment as the nation gets to grips with home working and/or schooling. As few people are fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office space, many will no doubt have found themselves sprawled out on the sofa, taking over a kitchen worktop or even working from their beds (we’ve all done it!).
Wherever you have managed to find space, you have most likely been drawn to the brightest spot in the house. It’s no great surprise that people are attracted to natural light and that most of us feel better when the sun comes out. However, beyond the “feel good” factor there are many tangible benefits to increasing the amount of natural daylight entering a building, none more so than improved productivity levels.
Daylight is a vital natural resource that will significantly improve the environment within any building. Evidence from the numerous physical and psychological studies undertaken on the subject, suggests that buildings enjoying high levels of natural light are literally more successful than those more reliant on artificial light. In all environments our brains respond better to natural light, which means people perform better.
If your home has all of a sudden also become your workplace, the presence of natural daylight has never been so important. Daylight is proven to increase concentration levels in working environments, with numerous studies showing that well-lit spaces often achieve improved productivity, over those that are not.
Many scientific studies conducted in the healthcare sector also support the conclusion that natural daylight has proven health benefits. Daylight helps to shorten patient recovery times, improves their mood and generally promotes well-being. So it’s no surprise that architects involved with hospitals, housing for the elderly and other healthcare buildings are constantly adjusting and updating their designs to reflect the importance of introducing daylight and, more specifically, natural sunlight.
But it’s not just the elderly or unwell that can reap the health benefits of natural light. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the UK population suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of winter depression. These individuals are known to respond to the hormone serotonin, whose production is triggered by natural daylight.
The environmental and financial benefits
Natural light also offers an environmentally friendly means of saving money on energy costs. It stands to reason that the more natural light entering a building, the less energy for lights and heating is required. If home working is to become the new norm for you or those in your household, then the longer-term cost savings of natural daylight are not to be dismissed, especially as the increase in lighting and power consumption is likely to be required at peak-demand prices. Effective use of day lighting may save up to about 50 percent of your energy cost requirements, depending upon how natural light is used.
Even in our rather dull climate, passive solar gain provides significant potential to reduce energy usage. Buildings that enjoy high levels of natural light evenly spread throughout will be heated naturally for a considerable percentage of the year.
Natural daylight is not only beneficial to those working from home. If you are among the millions of households that have been home schooling your children over the lockdown period you may be interested to know that natural daylight also has a significant impact on education.
Much of the research on the benefits of natural daylight has focused on the learning environment. Enhanced student performance and motivation, increased teacher and student attendance, reduced energy costs, as well as a positive effect on the environment are some of the improvements seen in school buildings that use well-planned day lighting concepts.
One study by Sacramento California, ‘Light Helps Pupils Learn’, is one of the largest ever undertaken on natural light in schools. It suggests that children learn faster and perform better in exams in classrooms with more daylight. It identified that exam results were up to 26 percent higher for schoolchildren in classrooms with plentiful natural light than for those in classrooms with little or no daylight. These findings are reinforced by Alberta Education’s, ‘A Study into the Effects of Light on Children of ElementarySchoolAge’, which showed that natural light also has a positive effect on the health of children, as well as on rates of attendance and achievement.
These are all benefits that can be transferred from school buildings to the home learning environment.
The role of the rooflight
Rooflights let in light from the brightest part of the sky and are not generally affected by external obstructions, such as trees or other buildings. They also provide a more even pattern of light than vertical windows.
Rooflights can form part of an effective technical lighting scheme, particularly in conjunction with efficiently controlled artificial lighting, to produce specified illumination levels for particular tasks. According to leading consultants, horizontal rooflights provide three times more light than vertical windows (the equivalent of 10,000 candles on a sunny day), which is more than 200 times the light needed for most educational or work related tasks.
In addition, rooflights can also add to the more subjective qualities of spaces as an integral part of the building’s architecture. They can provide views of the sky and promote a sense of well-being and connection with the outside without the distractions encountered with views through vertical glass windows.
These facts are well understood by most people involved in building design. However the huge potential of rooflights to provide exactly the amount, type and distribution of natural light required to meet any given specification is not always appreciated by the homeowner. So, whether home working and home schooling is a short-term solution, or something that we all must get used to, the role of natural daylight in the home and the physical and psychological benefits that it brings, cannot be underestimated.
For further information or to discuss your bespoke rooflight requirement contact the Stella Rooflight team on 01794 745445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stella Rooflight designs and manufactures high quality stainless steel bespoke rooflights. From design and production through to customer service, Stella has a single vision of doing things better than the industry standard.
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Architecture is first and foremost, the combination of three interrelated elements: art, technology, and culture. An architect’s mission is to create and visualize an organized space, via a 2D-3D drawing, corresponding to the premises needs of a given activity, while respecting all the binding or favourable factors.
After the preliminary stage of the documentary research and the usual surveys, the architect will then analyze the physical, regulatory and financial data to draw the basic directions of the construction programme and this before the start of the design work. On the other hand, the ideological orientation of the designer remains decisive as to the optional choices of the project if the client master of the works does not relay them explicitly.
The type of education provided in our architecture schools was supposed to meet the quality and quantity exigences of the national market. This is far from the case at the EPAU (Ecole Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme) of the 1970s. The art of building largely European inspired the type of training offered, thus unsuited to the reality and needs of the country. Foreign teachers with foreign pedagogical support without the slightest anchor to the existence of the public building have made us, inevitably, international architects in our own country and in other words, formed by Europe, for Europe. As proof of this reality, during our various internships in German architectural agencies, we were well-integrated, and our level of competence was relatively satisfactory, (Neufert and Mittag oblige). In addition to national market-oriented training, the contemporary model should not be overlooked and will be integrated into the curriculum. This will give the architect a level of competence that is acceptable on a global scale and will allow him to master the various stages of the design process for an international-style project.
The legal vacuum in the construction sector has severely reduced the curricula of their regulatory content. To this end, a complementary module should have been provided at the end of the course of study in the form of courses documented and presented by specialists from the relevant ministries.
It was not until the Planning Act 90-29 of 1 December 1990 that this void was finally filled. This law was promulgated, for the first time, under the leadership of the very far-sighted political leader, Mouloud Hamrouche.
In the world of work, this inadequate training forced new graduates to endure the vagaries of the profession under the orders of authoritarian directors, “party activists”, state-backed architectural consultants of the time. This situation of weakness was mainly due to the fault in the architect designing technical and regulatory elements specific to the field of the public building for which the latter, freshly graduated, was not or unprepared.
With the passage of time and experience in the field of planning: permits, demolitions and plots, the weak point of the planning files relates to two elements of great importance: integration into the site and planning regulations.
The first element requires respect for the built environment at the architectural level (style, and material) (alignment and height, etc.).
The second element is to master the existing building and urban planning regulations to comply with them without diminishing the architectural quality of the project. For example, the work presented by a colleague shows, at first sight, a small building built on sloping ground. This highly coloured and glazed building shines with its lack of integration within the site, and as a result, it follows a very straight and visually disturbing urban image.
Chirac, then mayor of Paris, had to refuse to grant a building permit to the posterity project presented by Mitterrand because of its unsuited style and appearance for the built environment. Similarly, in Blida, a billionaire had a castle built in a former residential area of the 1950s. The result is shocking because of the incompatibility of styles, an unnatural marriage. He copied a villa in the upscale suburbs of Stockholm and glued it to his property. It’s like building a Moorish house in the middle of Manhattan !!!
In conclusion, I believe that the designer architect, through his project, will impact on the lifestyle of future users; thus, his gesture becomes a social act. Design work must begin with all elements of site integration and current regulation in mind. Respect for general alignments, the heights of the buildings do not exceed the width of the access roads with the H≤L formula due to the sunshine requirements of the facades. Avoid overly greedy ground rights.
The city of tomorrow must be somewhat airy and sunny (sanitary distancing) with large planted or not green spaces. These bouquets of greenery will be the lungs of the city and its places of relaxation and socialization. The dormitory cities are to be banned and replaced by living neighbourhood units, integrating daytime activity, and joining the periphery of urban centres, thus promoting constructive and soothing social relations. Provide quality accompanying equipment related to unit density. The latter should be limited to 150 dwellings max per hectare to allow structural integration (roads, networks and equipment) to the existing urban neighbourhood. Make the most of locally available materials, taking climate change into account. Prefer non-fossil fuels for urban transport. Great importance is to give to non-polluting traffic with a network of bike paths and numerous pedestrian walkways. The narrow alleyways of the former centres will be transformed into a pedestrian zone and decorated with decorative elements planted and removable in case of emergency. Leisure and tourism businesses will be privileged. This view is very sketchy and does not include all the problems related to architecture and urban planning. Besides, the establishment of collective social housing developments will have to be distributed over several external sites following the rules of density and height. Never schedule too much housing construction on the same location. Always split these locations to less than 500 dwellings maximum per site. This beneficial condition will allow the future neighbourhood unit to integrate quickly and easily within the existing urban fabric and will not overwhelm the capacity of the surrounding facilities. Finally, it should be noted that northern Algeria is located on a seismic zone of type 2, medium intensity, therefore subject of periodic and unpredictable seismic movement. This natural characteristic requires respect for a building height not to exceed ranging from R-5 to R-7 to the maximum. Moreover, recent studies on high-rise buildings have shown that the quality of life in a high-rise dwelling is inversely proportional to its distance to the ground. People living on the 15th floor tend to have more chronic diseases than those of the 7th and lower levels.
The typical habit of local authorities to happily substitute for town planning specialists has done a great deal of damage to the development of cities. Decisions involving the future of the city for at least a century should have been discussed with all the specialists in the field: architects, urban planners, and sociologists in order to find the best proposals and thus avoid the disastrous and irreversible effects of unplanned developments. A city council should be created, headed by local officials, and assisted by technicians with proven competence. This council should discuss, request changes, and possibly approve all development plans for the city under a program set out by the PDAU (Plan Directeur d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme) containing the basic guidelines and itself in line with the regional development plan.
According to an expert in sustainable design, how to keep buildings cool without air conditioning, is by no mean as impossible as it may sound.
The warmer it gets, the more people crank up the air conditioning (AC). In fact, AC is booming in nations across the world: it’s predicted that around two-thirds of the world’s households could have an air conditioner by 2050, and the demand for energy to cool buildings will triple.
But unless the energy comes from renewable sources, all that added demand will generate more greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming – and of course, to hotter summers. It’s a vicious cycle – but buildings can be designed to keep the heat out, without contributing to climate change.
1. Windows and shading
Opening windows is a common way people try to cool buildings – but air inside will be just as hot as outside. In fact, the simplest way to keep the heat out is with good insulation and well-positioned windows. Since the sun is high in summer, external horizontal shading such as overhangs and louvres are really effective.
East and west-facing windows are more difficult to shade. Blinds and curtains are not great as they block the view and daylight, and if they are positioned inside the window, the heat actually enters the building. For this reason, external shutters – like those often seen on old buildings in France and Italy – are preferable.
2. Paints and glazes
It’s now common for roofs to be painted with special pigments that are designed to reflect solar radiation – not just in the visible range of light, but also the infrared spectrum. These can reduce surface temperatures by more than 10°C, compared to conventional paint. High-performance solar glazing on windows also help, with coatings that are “spectrally selective”, which means they keep the sun’s heat outside but let daylight in.
There’s also photochromic glazing, that changes transparency depending on the intensity of the light (like some sunglasses) and thermochromic glazing, that becomes darker when it is hot, which can also help. Even thermochromic paints, which absorb light and heat when it’s cold, and reflect it when it’s hot, are being developed.
3. Building materials
Buildings which are made of stone, bricks or concrete, or embedded into the ground, can feel cooler thanks to the high “thermal mass” of these materials – that is, their ability to absorb and release heat slowly, thereby smoothing temperatures over time, making daytime cooler and night time warmer. If you have ever visited a stone church in the middle of the Italian summer, you will probably have felt this cooling effect in action.
Unfortunately, modern buildings often have little thermal mass, or materials with high thermal mass are covered with plasterboard and carpets. Timber is also increasingly used in construction, and while making buildings out of timber generally has lower environmental impacts, its thermal mass is horrendous.
4. Hybrid and phase change materials
While concrete has a high thermal mass, it’s extremely energy intensive to produce: 8% to 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions come from cement. Alternatives such as hybrid systems, composed of timber together with concrete, are increasingly being used in construction, and can help reduce environmental impacts, while also providing the desired thermal mass.
Another, more exciting solution is phase change materials (PCMs). These remarkable materials are able to store or release energy in the form of latent heat, as the material changes phase. So when it’s cold, the substance changes to solid phase (it freezes) and releases heat. When it becomes liquid again, the material absorbs heat, providing a cooling effect.
PCMs can have even greater thermal mass than stones or concrete – research has found that these materials can reduce the internal temperatures by up to 5°C. If added to a building with AC, they can reduce electricity consumption from cooling by 30%.
PCMs have been hailed as a very promising technology by researchers, and are available commercially – often in ceiling tiles and wall panels. Alas, the manufacture of PCMs is still energy intensive. But some PCMs can cause a quarter of the CO₂ emissions that others do, so choosing the correct product is key. And manufacturing processes should become more efficient over time, making PCMs increasingly worthwhile.
5. Water evaporation
Water absorbs heat and evaporates, and as it rises, it pushes cooler air downwards. This simple phenomenon has led to the development of cooling systems, which make use of water and natural ventilation to reduce the temperature indoors. Techniques used to evaporate water include using sprayers, atomizing nozzles (to create a mist), wet pads or porous materials, such as ceramic evaporators filled with water.
The water can be evaporated in towers, wind catchers or double skin walls – any feature which creates a channel where hot air and water vapour can rise, while cool air sinks. Such systems can be really effective, as long as the weather is relatively dry and the system is controlled carefully – temperatures as low as 14°C to 16°C have been reported in several buildings.
But before we get too enthusiastic about all these new technologies, let’s go back to basics. A simple way to ensure AC doesn’t contribute to global warming is to power it with renewables – in the hot weather, solar energy seems the obvious choice, but it takes money and space. The fact remains, buildings can no longer be designed without considering how they respond to heat – glass skyscrapers, for example, should become obsolete. Instead, well insulated roofs and walls are crucial in very hot weather.
Everything that uses electricity in buildings should be as energy efficient as possible. Lighting, computers, dishwashers and televisions all use electricity, and inevitably produce some heat – these should be switched off when not in use. That way, we can all keep as cool as possible, all summer long.
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