Architecture has traditionally varied based on societal and socioeconomic norms, but recent trends have moved toward bioclimatic architecture. This is a school of thought with architecture that’s based on the local environment and optimized for local climates. It seeks to lessen the outdoor environmental impact on the indoor climate and provide optimal thermal and visual comfort.
Bioclimatic architecture is designed to make the most of the local environment for each building so that the building consumes fewer resources for heating and cooling — which leads to less consumption of resources once construction is completed. Bioclimatic architecture works with the landscape instead of against it. It also calculates the original building expense in terms of resources against the long-term maintenance costs.
Bioclimatic architecture as a solidified concept started in the 1950s. However, the ideas were employed by ancient civilizations that worked with local materials to create buildings that protected them from the natural environment. Because ancient societies lacked electricity, all indoor climate control was based on the design and material of their structures. This is the most basic implementation of bioclimatic architecture.
The concept was revitalized during the 1950s when several publications promoted the concept as a way to reduce costs and better serve inhabitants. The number of architects adhering to this school of thought has steadily grown as humanity’s impact on the environment has notably increased over the years.
There are many common practices in bioclimatic building. South-facing windows are often featured in homes to maximize daily and natural heating during winter months and minimize heat during the summer. This approach works anywhere in the northern hemisphere, whereas north-facing windows should be used in the southern hemisphere.
Bioclimatic building takes into account all aspects of a design — including the design itself, but also the sourcing of materials and how they’re used within that design. Construction is intended to minimize waste and use building materials as efficiently as possible.
Integrated electricity production can also be included as part of the building process. Solar cells and windmills are commonly integrated into buildings.
Bioclimatic principles are being applied in various ways in current buildings.
- Sunlight. To cut down on lighting expenses and use higher quality light, windows are positioned to maximize daily exposure.
- Thermal heating. Water is pumped through pipes in the ground and is warmed by the Earth’s heat. This works even in cold winter environments since the Earth retains its heat below the surface.
- Thicker walls. Though this includes significant upfront costs, concrete walls provide great insulation that can lead to a more efficient indoor environment.
- Rooftop gardens. Though gardening is not often associated with building, a garden on top of a building provides another layer of insulation that’s effective in both warm and cold months.
- Materials. New materials such as recycled plastics can be used as insulation or building material and reduce the number of items that end up in landfills. These materials vary depending on the original source, but they can be used in numerous capacities throughout the building process.
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Because of global warming and rapidly changing environments, people have embraced environmentally friendly building plans. In some areas, governments have demanded that new construction conforms to environmentally friendly building standards. These builds often command higher prices based on their appeal and lower maintenance costs.
Environmentally conscious purchases show no signs of slowing down, and the demand for buildings using bioclimatic practices have trended along with all other types of environmentally friendly products.
Structures built according to bioclimatic philosophies have lower maintenance costs over time. They’re more energy-efficient and obtain more of their heating and cooling from the outdoor environment. Because of this, the overall cost will be less for people who hold on to these buildings for long periods of time.
Inhabitants also benefit from the thoughtful design that preserves views of nature and the building’s surroundings. Though harder to quantify than the maintenance expenses, the cohesion with the natural environment can yield emotional benefits for the people who live in this type of dwelling.
Though there are few negative aspects to bioclimatic architecture, the upfront costs can be prohibitive. The additional building materials required for thicker walls or insulation, for example, will vary depending on the size of the building but can be fairly substantial. It may be tempting to cut these costs during the construction period, but the long-term cost of operating the buildings will be significantly less if proper materials are used throughout.
Additionally, it may be harder to find an architect who is thoroughly versed in bioclimatic architecture and can properly design an environmentally friendly building while adhering to the client’s aesthetic requests.
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Today’s bioclimatic architecture has been expanded to include defenses against natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and storms. Through careful planning and advanced engineering, structures have become more resilient to these types of unforeseen events while retaining their initial purpose related to comfort and efficiency.
As engineers and architects research and explore new building materials and concepts, the number of options for bioclimatic buildings will continue to increase and attract more buyers. The virtuous cycle of increased demand leading to more attractive and desirable buildings shows no signs of curtailing in the future.
Buildings constructed with bioclimatic principles sell at higher values than other structures. These principles can be applied in both city and rural environments, and they benefit from being adaptable to many different situations. The principles also apply to both residences and commercial buildings, although the demands of each environment will vary.
Miniwiz is committed to creating furniture and other items using sustainable manufacturing techniques. We take single-use items and transform them into building materials, fabrics, and fixtures. Recycled building materials can be used in conjunction with bioclimatic plans to make a home that works with the environment instead of against it.