Architects and designers have always known that responses to space can affect a person’s mood and emotions. Many such buildings have been designed with this in mind. As a person enters a cathedral kinaesthetic responses and the engaging of the body’s muscles especially in the back promote a response as we gaze up to the vaulted roof. Such responses help a person read a building and assess its purpose and function directly affecting our behaviour within that structure. Likewise our sense of hearing helps us evaluate spaces. Opera houses and concert halls have been designed to produce the best acoustics. The repeat lines and spacing of floorboards and windows in architecture lends it a certain rhythm.
Sites where development takes place often turn into speeding racetracks or grid locked systems as the very popularity of the area, which brought development there, in the first place chokes through over development. Papanek (1995) illustrates site investigation usually relying on four determinants: (1) distance from markets, (2) raw materials source (3) transportation network and available labour. The aesthetics of a site usually affect whether individuals will choose to live in that particular area, with for example many living away and preferring to commute for instance to their place of work. Paradoxically, Wines’ (2000) research has shown that in many slum areas in some of the world’s most populated cities there is a much higher degree of social happiness than in other more affluent areas of town where residents experience a higher degree of material wealth.
Traditionally buildings have stood out from their surroundings because they represent anything and everything except of what’s around them. A great number of architectural plans never get further than the drawing board and remain on the table. The shape of buildings and new developments will finally be forced to respond to increasingly limited resources, which present specific challenges to architects, but may represent an opportunity to design the future based on more social and environmental responsibilities. Ardebli and Boussanbane (2006) demonstrate that previous technological influences were rooted in cultural and economic progression and rarely did architects consider environmental or psychological impact on those living in or within the shadow of some designs resulting in a detachment from nature and ones surroundings.
Eismann’s (2005) shows that the publics dislike of new buildings has been dismissed as philistine ignorance by designers, widening the gap between architect and the public. Environmental architecture is still in a relatively young stage although technological innovations are now being adopted more readily as mainstream by building contractors. This has more to do with current building regulations imposing measures to battle global warming emissions as much as a willingness to adopt an environmental stance willingly.
The next decade though is set to produce more dramatic evidence of environmental technology. It is, indeed a struggle to incorporate environmental technology, resource conservation and aesthetic content into the design of any new building and strike a balance between practicality and aesthetic quality.
There has been for many years much talk of making buildings more sustainable. Wines (2000) argue that many current day materials though only have certain shelf lives. One key is to recognise materials availability regionally when needing replacement they are available through local sources thus allowing buildings to be recycled almost indefinitely.
Dehangi (2004) on the other hand shows that many green buildings provide energy efficiency and small ecological footprints but show no visible evidence of artistic endeavour and are often monotonous. Does sustainable architecture have to mean solid durable buildings but no soul whilst remaining true to its two basic premises, which are
- To survive in cooperation with nature
- To build shelter in concert with ecological principles
Although Flore (2006) applauds recent technological advances in environmental architecture she argues that there is much to disdain and to date the effect on social awareness, although growing is still out of the mainstream. Most technological innovations in environmental architecture have over emphasised the technology but not the social or aesthetic aspects.
Flore (2006) again shows that technological innovations are often presented as challenges to public conscience, which often get put off by lengthy reports on thermal qualities and energy saving technological advances. Technological innovations can sometimes distract designers from the larger picture of inter connectedness. Nowadays there are a fair number of standard ecological and technological designs that are written into environmental building which are slowly becoming compulsory requirements of all new building planning applications.
The standardised checklist includes smaller buildings (although problems arise with a growing world population), use of recycled and renewable materials, use of low embodied energy materials and considering the production process of materials. In addition Kalper (2005) stresses that planners and builders need to be encouraged to source timber locally and from sustainable sources, incorporate water catchment systems and recycle grey water.
These building technologies should be adapted to regional climates. Buildings have to be recycled and renovated rather than demolished and curb urban sprawl. At the same time pollution can be reduced by reducing the amount of ozone depleting chemicals within the construction industry and help preserve the natural environment.
Again Flore (2006) points to advances in energy efficiency as being at the forefront of technological innovation in recent years increasing the use of more diverse and renewable energies, whilst Kalper (2005) shows how many architects are now looking towards the latest innovations in technology or returning to old methods whilst others are attempting to incorporate local topography, vegetation, solar energies and the earth itself within their designs to achieve a true sustainable vision. Some of the more pronounced innovations taken up by designers in more recent times include,
- The integration of architecture and landscape and using the elements of earth and vegetation in a way that they seem to be a part of the raw material used in construction.
- The combination of shelter and garden space
- The use of nature related symbolism and to an earth centred imagery
- Green design research and environmental technology innovations that provide the foundations of sustainable and ecologically responsible architecture.
- Bridge building environmental design ideas and construction techniques that have encouraged a new acceptance of green architecture.
- Despite the good intentions many innovations remain as singular examples of latest technological advances and the projects produced as more architectural curiosities or showcase examples. (www.aecb.net)
Wines (2000), points to one of the foremost firms pioneering technological innovations is LOG-ID from Germany. They use the principal of the ‘thermal onion’ technology first adopted by Thomas Herzog, the German architect. The idea here develops an innovative solar construction system, approaching climate control by creating a series of buildings within buildings using layers of walls that collect the suns rays efficiently and allow for a controlled stream of air throughout the interior and incorporate vegetation for air cleansing.
Exterior glass walls are well insulated for storing heat within the winter months as illustrated by Eismann (2005). Through a heat transfer system, heat is transformed from the outer to the inner walls with the help of fans to distribute the heat evenly. In the summer trees incorporated between the outer and inner walls help shade and cool the buildings. Many buildings are centred on a garden planted with mature trees, incorporating an atrium solar collector distributing warm air in the winter and releasing the suns heat through central ventilation during the summer.
Photovoltaic allow for savings on electricity and allows surplus electricity production, which can be sold back to the national grid Ardebli and Boussabane (2006). Straw bales can act as insulation and recycled tyres melted down can be used as a bitumen type spray for roofs. Other materials include earth blocks and straw construction, recycled rubber, photovoltaic or low tech green solutions for contemporary urban and suburban architecture, often a cooperative experience between architects, artists and engineers. Whereas Kalper (2005) points to how some environmental psychologists argue that nature deprivation is at the root of some mental health problems today. The STERN project in Berlin used a technique called the vertical swamp to capture and recycle grey water.
Dehangi (2004) argues that if architecture is to progress it has to resolve form and functionality within its own design boundaries and create impressive buildings that also function. Glass and polycarbonate roof lights and facades, ventilation and shading incorporated into glazing systems. Natural daylight reduces cost and has a positive effect on people’s health and attitude. Changes in light intensity can affect the internal feel of a building.
Designers strive to achieve maximum daylight potential, especially in work places. Problems result in too much light ‘glare’ excessive heat gain in summer and loss in winter. This is a problem designers want to overcome. Kalper (2005) advocates modern day techniques including ‘monopitch’ or ‘double pitch’ roof light systems, double glazed glass drilled into stainless steel brackets, or the glass is clamped onto the structure, offering a saving as there is no need to drill.
Solar walls comprise of an internal curtain wall screen, retractable adjusting sun tracking solar blinds and an external structural supported glazing system. Natural ventilation of the cavity is allowed. Papanek (1995) on the other hand supports external solar shading as one way to reduce absorption into a building; solar louvers allow this to happen by absorbing and reflecting excess heat from the sun.
Louvers track the position of the sun during the summer months and reduce the number of days the building overheats. Likewise in winter they can be opened to take advantage of any heat produced by the sun and closed again at night to prevent heat loss. They can also increase daylight levels in the building or reduce glare. Similarly Eismann (2005) strongly supports controllable shading systems that follow the path of the sun and when dull or overcast the louvers open to maximise daylight and close again if too much glare builds up. Common systems include Carrier System 1-5 (Fig 1).
Shaded systems can reduce solar heat gain, lower air conditioning costs and lessen glare whilst maximising use of daylight. Photovoltaic cells maybe incorporated to obtain further energy use. Both monocrystralline and poly crystalline cells may be used and can be laminated between two sheets of glass. This method combines solar shading with the generation of electrical power. Fabric can be used between two louver support frames, allowing attractive diffused light to enter and allow high external vision.
Flore (2006) points to methods of climate control in buildings coming in various forms including,
- Commercial air conditioning, based on water source heat pump technology
- Commercial natural ventilation
- Industrial natural ventilation
- Cooling and mechanical ventilation
Natural ventilation systems work by automatically opening and closing roof spaces and doors in a controlled manner.
Changes came into force in April 2007 and affect the erection, extension or material alteration of a building, and fire safety designed into a building. Legislation also delivers guidance on domestic loft conversions, door closing devices and sprinklers in flats. Non domestic changes include a maximum unsprinklered compartment size for single storey warehouses, guidance on residential care homes, including sprinklers and make occupiers aware of the building fire protection measures under the new Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order. The changes reflect real fire experiences, developments in construction and research findings as well as stakeholder involvement. Fire and Buildings Minister Angela Smith said
‘…protecting people in their homes and workplaces remains a key element of government policy on fire safety’.
Changes affect how fire safety is incorporated into building design. Changes also include the authorisation of several new competent self-certification schemes that will enhance compliance, especially with respect to energy efficiency requirements of the regulation. Building regulations are made under the Building Act 1984. Approved document B is a 170-page document. The main points include,
The management of premises Certification schemes Residential sprinklers in accordance with latest BS 9251:2005 Specific design criteria for hospitals and similar health care premises. BB100 certification used in the design of schools Fire alarms in flats Smoke alarms to be fitted with a back up power supply
There is also new guidance on the ‘means of escape’ during a fire and guidance provided on galleries, inner rooms and sprinkler protection and protected stairways instead of alternative escape routes included into flats of more than one storey as well as more guidance on the use of air circulation to combat fire spread.
Dehangi (2004) notes that the fabric most commonly used is silicon based glass fabric secured with aluminium extrusion plates. Historically fabric engineering has required the design form to have a double curvature, so as to create a stable structure, but some new technologies have allowed designers to work with textile panels to extend and absorb loads, returning to its original position once free from any pressure.
Fabric materials provide an alternative to polycarbonate, glass composites and metals. One of the most useful applications for fabric that Dehangi (2004) points to is to cut down on glare from a glass fronted building, providing generous ambient light within the building and allowing easy outside viewing. Fabric innovations can be used in cladding (external and internal), roofs (single skinned and insulated), canopies, shade systems, external and internal walls and ceilings.
Alternatives include natural fibre engineering and bio fibres to produce alternative materials and current research has involved experimentation with chitin, clutosan and alginate fibres. Wines (2000) points out that many fabricated structures are bound by health and safety laws to regular inspection to ensure longevity and reliability. Fabric membranes lend themselves well to organic shapes and every component is functional and visible. There can be considerable stress on the lateral loads, as the material often relies on a double curvature to resist loads.
As Eismann (2005) illustrates, most fabrics are no thicker than 1mm and can withstand forces of many tonnes with the correct engineering in place and a typical structure would have a tensile strength of up to 10 tonnes. Many canopies transfer their load into adjoining structures. The pressure may generate large lateral loads, which may need additional reinforced structures.
Other canopies are secured to the ground with guide ropes, rather like a tent, which often require additional reinforced concrete foundations to resist the tensile loads. The shape of the membrane is determined by the ratio of pre stress in the two principle directions of curvature, established in the computer form generated process. Pre stress is calculated to be sufficient to keep all parts tense under any load.
In conclusion architects have designed historically to make a statement onto the environment and emphasised the differences between the structure and the natural surroundings. Designs have previously not taken into account impact on the environment and those utilising the design for a functional purpose. Legislation and awareness of resources and increasing use of natural resources such as solar heat have brought innovative technological changes into architectural design to reduce the use of finite resources whilst psychological impacts on the public have begun to find stronger ground. There is though still the premise that many of these innovations whilst remaining technologically exciting remain outside of current mainstream architectural use.