Architecture has turned a corner in the past decade. The focus now is now to design structures that are in harmony with the natural environment. The new goal is to tread as lightly as we can and reduce the consumption of resources. Bioclimatic design is just one part of this new wave.
Is Bioclimatic Design New?
First, let’s define bioclimatic design. The name comes from a combination of biology and climate.
The basis of this type of design is understanding the microclimate you plan to build in. Then, designing ventilation, lighting, and heating and cooling with that microclimate in mind.
Is bioclimatic design a new concept? Well, yes and no. Prior to the 20th century, all buildings were considered bioclimatic because we needed to maximize their performance. We had no other choice.
Once air conditioning and electric lights came along, they made us lazy. We could now fall back on these modern conveniences.
This led to a complete dissociation between buildings and the local climate. A great example of this architectural phase is modern, glass buildings. These work great somewhere where extra sunshine is needed – not so great in the desert.
In the desert, these glass buildings are basically big greenhouses. Tons of air conditioning is needed to keep the inhabitants comfortable – yet we still built them.
Recently, bioclimatic design is coming back now that we have a new need for it – fighting climate change. What has changed from the bioclimatic design of the past? We have the chance to use new technology combined with ancient knowledge.
What Are Some Examples of Bioclimatic Design?
Like we said, bioclimatic design isn’t necessarily a new thing. Around the world, traditional cultures used and continue to use bioclimatic design to maximize their comfort in their climate.
Some examples are the Spanish haciendas with thick, thermally dense walls, which help to regulate temperatures. These haciendas, and other buildings in warm climates, have small, south-facing windows to reduce solar heating and larger, north-facing windows to bring in light.
The high-peaked, curved roofs in China and Japan were designed to control stormwater and snow. Indigenous architecture in Pakistan captures wind and uses it for natural ventilation. Sod houses in Scandinavian and Nordic cultures insulated the house during winter and shaded it during summer.
Examples of bioclimatic design don’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as air flow across ponds for natural cooling or trees for shade and cooling.
Where is Bioclimatic Design Headed?
We can expect more and more architectural plans in the future to consider and reflect the local climate.
Some of the future bioclimatic designs will be revolutionary and inspiring. In Northern Africa, a government building was designed with sand dunes in mind. The sand dunes reflect the local climate.
The building, designed by Mario Cucinella Architects, is three-sided and dune-shaped. One side is concave, and that side collects cool, fresh wind from the southeast. The other two convex sides block the hot winds from the northeast and southwest.
Office windows can open and bring in the cool air, with warm air rising and exiting from the top. The whole building was designed to maximize natural ventilation.