Thursday, July 24, 2014

why I believe in Passive Architecture

“I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  There, the summers were naturally hot and sweltering. While the temperatures did descend in winter months, it wasn’t so cold and the humid air still endured.  My family and I lived in a traditional, vernacular Buenos Aires home in the center of the city.  It dated from the 1800’s and was what we called a ‘Casa Chorizo.’   

Reflecting back on my childhood in that house, what I most remember is most always feeling comfortable within and the fresh fragrance of jasmine and azaleas in the luminous courtyard.  With cross-ventilation, the house stayed pleasantly fresh and cool, even though we didn't have air conditioning or ceiling fans.

Things changed when I moved into an apartment in a brand new building.  It was in a beautiful neighborhood of Buenos Aires with sweeping views across the metropolis.  However, this building did not offer the same refreshing experience that my childhood home did.  With the sun blasting into the large windows, the space became unbearable in the summer. I had to install blinds over the windows and an air conditioner which remained on 24 hours a day.  My beautiful view of the city was now shrouded in white fabric and I longed for the natural summer breezes.    

While this was an unpleasant experience, it helped me realize how much of an impact a building’s design can have on its inhabitants.  Now I understood more about my childhood home.  The thick walls produced an exceptional insulation.  The transom windows above the doors and windows pushed warm air across and out of the building.  The veranda provided a buffer from the high summer sun, but allowed the low winter sun to project light into the bedrooms, and grape vines growing above provided a handsome shading for the space below.    

An efficient design means responding to local climate and site conditions to maximize building users’ comfort and wind to provide household heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting, thereby reducing or removing the need for mechanical heating or cooling. Using passive design can reduce temperature fluctuations, improve indoor air quality and make a home drier and more enjoyable to live in.

This is why I passionately believe that architects should design buildings with comfort and resource-efficiency in mind.” 

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