In the past, implementing environmental solutions, bioclimatic solutions, in buildings was little more than an experimental criterion. Nowadays, however, we can speak not only of bioclimatic architecture and low impact buildings, but of bioclimatic urbanism that takes into account as one of its fundamental variables the environment, and its development and protection.
But in practice, unfortunately, other interests come first. There is still much to be done.
One of these disciplines is bioclimatic architecture.
Bioclimatic architecture is a discipline that develops its activity taking into account the characteristics of the climate belonging to the geographical latitude in which it is located. The aim of Bioclimatic Architecture is to provide habitability conditions to the user of the dwelling with a minimum impact on the environment, both in terms of energy consumption, integration into the landscape, noise levels and pollutant emissions throughout the life of the building: design, construction, operation and dismantling if necessary. In short, it is a question of building and living without degrading the environment, maximizing the opportunities that nature itself offers (Sun, rain, wind, vegetation…).
With these principles as a basis, bioclimatic architecture has to study as a whole all the concepts involved in this architectural typology (structures, installations, exposure to sun, heating, acoustic protection and conditioning, as well as lighting, enclosures, orientation, design of the environment…). The individual appreciation some of these concepts and the lack of conceptualization, could lead to the failure of the project and the construction of inefficient buildings.
The bioclimatic design and construction starts from the choice of the site, analyzing the area and the integration of the building with it, as well as its protection against the negative environmental conditions that might affect the building in the future. For this reason, insulation, based on the climatic factors that surround it, is a key issue: both the interior climate of the house – its degree of humidity, temperature… – and how these criteria relate to the prevailing climate in the exterior.
Therefore, climate control by constructive means – avoiding heat loss, integrating efficient cooling systems – must be undertaken in accordance with the conditions offered by the environment, after having carried out a detailed analysis covering an entire annual cycle. This could clearly contribute to the protection of the environment, limiting, where appropriate, the use of artificial systems to the strictly necessary and only as a complement to those offered by the environment in which it is built. Finally, it is a matter of minimizing energy consumption and optimizing it as much as possible by reducing the pollution it generates.
This shows that regional climate assessment and the analysis of constructive needs in terms of climate conditions, is essential not only to achieve comfortable living conditions but to allow development that balances energy consumption, polluting emissions and environmental protection.
The implementation and use of renewable energy sources (which are constantly renewed by nature and therefore, never run out) enables households to heat and cool the living spaces naturally. On top of solar energy, we can also consider other renewable energy such as wind and hydropower to generate electricity, geothermal energy for heating and cooling (radiating tubes) or methane gas generation by using organic waste (biomass); which are all complementary.
South-facing windows (in the Northern hemisphere), the use of materials with heat preservation properties – such as wood, adobe and straw, or green roofs -, burying the building underground, whitewashing houses in areas with long hot season, placing populations next to river basins where it is easier to find fertile land, and using water to cool down spaces are other ways in which nature can be implemented into our buildings.
Putting these principles to good use, making us responsible for the future, will mean halting one of the great climate challenges of the 21st century – that buildings are responsible for more than 40% of the total energy we consume and, therefore, for the pollution that this consumption entails (CO2 emissions into the atmosphere).