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Bioclimatic architecture and the houses of the future

About 36% of the planet’s energy consumption occurs in the construction sector. Buildings are also responsible for 40% of the total CO2 emissions that are emitted in the world according to data from the International Energy Agency (IRENA). It is for this reason that the energy transition urgently needs to accelerate the building model to one that promotes sustainable and carbon-neutral infrastructures. This construction model is called bioclimatic architecture and its projects are a fundamental piece to stop climate change. In this article we are going to learn about the importance of this type of building.

One of the keys to bioclimatic architecture is solar energy, so installing solar panels in your home or business is one of the most important steps towards the energy transition and the use of renewable energies.

What is bioclimatic architecture?

We understand by bioclimatic architecture the building construction that has been designed taking into account the weather of the place, reducing its environmental impact, taking advantage of local resources and with the maximum energy efficiency possible.

Its main characteristics are the use of elements that adapt to the environment, of local construction materials (the zero kilometer), just like an eco-friendly design including trees and/or plants, that is to say, that it does not make the construction stand out against natural elements. Therefore, it is a “green” architecture, which also differs from the so-called “sustainable” because it requires a detailed climate study unlike the latter.

The principles of this typology of architecture, therefore, are weather and location, the energy efficiency, that includes solar gain and insulation to minimize the loss of thermal comfort, and the naturally regulated ventilation. All these principles have the same objective; achieve that, without resorting to mechanical and/or electrical equipment, and the house will self-regulate your temperature for comfort. To do this, it seeks to make the most of the natural resources and so reduce electricity consumption, which otherwise can come from solar panels. Thermal isolation is achieved with hermetic closures on windows and doors, the same ones that will be part of the cross ventilation, a way of making the air in the installation renew constantly and naturally, improving the climatic conditions of its interior.

Although it seems like a modern trend, the origin of this way of building dates back to antiquity. In the 5th century BC, the philosopher Socrates was the first to anticipate how houses should be designed like that, with a text stating that “it is more pleasant to have the house cool in summer and warm in winter”. From this statement, it began the defense of building houses considering the incidence of the sun. Later, it was the Roman Empire which broke down what were the principles of bioclimatic architecture that would be used throughout its territory.

How does a bioclimatic home work?

Bioclimatic architecture contemplates the type of climate and adapts the spaces of the building to it.

First of all, in cold weather, larger spaces should face south and have the largest possible glazed area, which allows the passage of light to heat the environment.

Second, in hot climates, architecture seeks to minimize the number of rooms facing south and with less light, so that the shade cools the rooms.

Vegetation plays a fundamental role.Trees and plants outside the building will create a microclimate which, in turn, will provide an environment of nature. All this allows bioclimatic buildings to provide total comfort in terms of thermal sensations and environment with nature.

What materials are used and how is the wind harnessed?

Bioclimatic buildings are built with natural materials such as bamboo, wood, earth or stone, among others, and with processed materials such as polystyrene, a thermoplastic polymer with very good thermal insulation properties.

Apart from this type of materials, we must not forget the role of plants, as we have seen in the lines above. Strategically placed, they can help protect from the cold of the winter wind or offer shade in summer. Besides, control erosion and beautify the place.

Natural cross ventilation is the application that will help to take advantage of the wind. From two openings in the same space and with opposite or adjacent walls, the air will be able to flow naturally. This ventilation is extremely important to cool rooms in summer or in very hot places, since it will reduce the average temperature of the room helping to improve thermal comfort.

Knowing that the hottest air currents come from the southern orientations of the houses, as well as the fact that hot air tends to rise, to take advantage of natural cross ventilation it is important to install windows and doors on the south façade, since it is there from where the hot air will be extracted from the interior of the home. In the same way, outside air must enter through the windows located to the north of the house.

Bioclimatic urbanism and the house of the future  

Once the principles of bioclimatic architecture are understood, we can intuit what bioclimatic urban planning is. Is about rational and integral planning of a territory in which the constructions of houses and buildings will form a design consistent with the principles of bioclimatic architecture. That is to say, a comfortable environment at the thermal level and pleasant at the level of environmental impact, in which all the buildings have been designed considering the fundamental factors of the climate, such as temperature, humidity, wind and any other associated with it.

The trend is that, in the near future, more and more buildings will be built under these principles, both private and public. To this day, the commitment to this bioclimatic urbanism is evident on the part of numerous city councils, which seek to increase the “green areas” and the construction of public buildings with high levels of energy efficiency, solar panels and even cross ventilation when possible.

The “house of the future”, therefore, will be the one that considers all these principles that we have seen in this article.

  1. Cross ventilation and thermal insulation, so maximum efficiency is achieved to maintain the interior temperature.
  2. Renewable energy, especially solar energy with photovoltaic panels and type systems like aerotermia, for example.
  3. Correct construction orientation to make the most of the available daylight hours, minimizing the need to use artificial light.
  4. Construction with the maximum possible natural materials, recycled and zero proximity.
  5. Installation of exterior elements that help, with shadows, to maintain the temperature. They can be awnings, blinds, pergolas, cornices, etc.
  6. Paint the building with colors that match. The light ones will reflect the light and make the rooms larger and cooler, while the dark ones will absorb the heat, increasing the temperature of the room. Similarly, the exterior can be painted with colors that fit with the environment.
  7. Having “green” spaces, whether they are terraces, gardens or windows with plants. The vegetation creates a natural ecosystem, protects from heat and increases the feeling of comfort.

Bioclimatic architecture is increasingly more present among us. It is part of the energy transition, given that to alleviate the effects of climate change we must minimize greenhouse gas emissions and the water footprint of our homes and buildings.