Tuesday, 29 December 2009



Review Jennifer Taylor

N°1 Looking across the environmental deck at the Newton Suites residential tower.

N°2 Moulmein Rise, Singapore, 2003. Photograph Albert Lim.

N°3 Crowne Plaza Hotel, Changi Airport, 2008.

N°4 Stadium Mass Rapid Transit Station, designed 2000.

N°5 Newton Suites. The thirty-six-storey tower is poised on the edge of the high-rise centre of Singapore, looking out over the low-rise area.

N°6 Looking down onto the geometric ordering of the environmental deck.

N°7 Entry from Khiang Guan Avenue showing the extensive greenery.

N°8 The entry to the car park, located below the environmental deck.

N°9 The arrangement of painted panels throughout the site provides a hard-edged counterpoint to the softness of the surrounding water and vegetation.

N°10 At night the lights cast shadows of greenery across the building.

N°11 Looking down onto a cantilevered skygarden, with the environmental deck below.

There is WOHA going to take us next? WOHA is one of the most interesting and challenging architectural firms in practice today. Each of the buildings of recent years has been a unique exploratory statement, opening up new directions down widely divergent paths. WOHA was established in Singapore in 1994 by Richard Hassell and Wong Mun Summ, when Hassell was twenty-eight years of age and Wong was thirty-two.1 Over the following fourteen years their local and offshore architecture has become internationally recognized, including the award to Newton Suites of the Silver Medal of the Emporis Skyscraper Award for 2007, and its inclusion among the world’s top five tall buildings in the 2008 International Highrise Award. This was followed in 2008 by Singapore’s inaugural SIA-NParks Skywise Greenery Award, and the Australian Institute of Architects Award for International Architecture to both Newton Suites and the Stadium Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Station. Individually, Hassell and Wong are talented and creative designers. For their Singapore buildings, they bring together an Australian vision, with its outside perception, and an inside Singapore vision. The architecture this produces is attuned to the island, to its social aspirations and its cultural, climatic and physical qualities. The buildings respond to, and tell of, differing aspects of living in Singapore as it is conditioned by place and history, and as a part of today’s world – from the wistful reality and dreams of dwelling in the Garden City to the tempo of the downtown, the dynamic of the Stadium MRT Station and the bustle and frantic movement surrounding Changi Airport. Hassell and Wong met in Kerry Hill’s Singapore studio, where they worked until the mid-1990s. There can be no question that this fruitful experience strongly influenced the design of Newton Suites, in creating an awareness of the potential joys of water, light, space and greenery in a tropical setting. With Hill they share a deep interest in and respect for traditional culture and architecture, but not in terms of imagery or symbols of cultural continuity. Other aspects of South-East Asian practices, however, remain leading concerns for them, and from which they draw depends on the nature of the project. With WOHA’s shift to larger city projects, important lessons for their high-rise residential architecture were found in the experimental modernist buildings of the heroic, post-colonial era in South-East Asia, notably those of Paul Rudolph. Moulmein Rise, which won the Aga Khan Award and the President’s Design Award, both in 2007, preceded Newton Suites in the firm’s Singapore residential work.2Moulmein Rise would have provided a valuable introductory study for Newton Suites, as it is an innovative tower block that explored ways to respond positively to climate and to counter the constraints of vertical city living. From the same family of designs comes the younger sister of these towers, The Hyde, now commencing construction in Sydney. Newton Suites, designed 2003 and completed 2007, is one of WOHA’s recent diverse buildings that appear to have little direct precedent. They stand alone, each one asserting its individuality – as with the Singapore School of the Arts, under construction in the central city, which introduces new concepts for the use of urban space; and the visually rich Crowne Plaza Hotel, Changi Airport, 2008, with its imaginative juxtapositions of differing shapes, colours and patterns, each rivalling the others for attention. The wonderful excess of the hotel is countered at its polarity by the suave, sleek and streamlined monochromatic form of the yet-to-be-operational Stadium Mass Rapid Transit Station, designed 2000, that is as much a model of discipline, refinement and restraint as Crowne Plaza is of unpredictability, surreal combinations and exuberance. Within this kaleidoscope of architectural inventiveness, the distinctly different Newton Suites stands aloof and appears coolly confident of its own aesthetic appeal and architectural characteristics. The tower of thirty-six stories is poised on the fringe of the high-rise centre of Singapore, looking out over a low-rise area. The building and its site make for a complementary balance of opposites, with the slim, erect tower rising tall from the edge of the greenery and water pools of the large horizontal stretch of the recreation deck – the Yin and the Yang. The perforated steel mesh shading the penthouse terraces lightly filters the transition from tower to sky. The site is economically used, with the tower set to one side. The recreation deck – the facilities of which include a social terrace, sauna, steam room and gymnasium complex, all well located on the far side of the pools – covers over the above-ground parking, with vine-covered screen enclosures that reduce negative by-products from the cars. The roof and walls of the gymnasium match the chequered arrangement of painted panels – a subtle combination of beige and various shades of grey – that covers all planar surfaces of the tower, thus uniting the two buildings and providing a hard-edged counterpoint to the softness of the surrounding water and vegetation. The landscape of the deck is skilfully conceived, with the geometric order of the sparkling mosaic-lined pools, the rows of judiciously placed trees, the timber decking and the tiled paving of granites from China, laid in patterns of pale and light grey and olive green, akin to the wall panels. The detail throughout the project exudes care, and nowhere more so than on the pool deck, which exhibits a high level of finesse, as in the minimal steel showers and the steel-and-timber pool access rail.3The tower’s simple, contained form is enlivened by a layer of sheltering elements, and much of the visual appeal of the building derives from this confection of mesh screens, climbing vines, the pattern of the rectangular layout of the painted panels, the projecting balconies and the cantilevered skygardens shading the wall below – each one contributing to the passive moderation of the facades. The multi-layered folded mesh of horizontal sunshades, and wraps the building on all sides in a spidery black web, gives a light and vibrant effect. The mesh has been carefully engineered, with an expanded profile to let light in from certain angles and to provide shade from others. Further, the open mesh of the screens and the glass balcony balustrades retain a visual connection with the ground. The screens change their appearance according to viewpoint and read as a shifting, three-dimensional op art painting. Their shadows shift across the projecting balconies and over the walls, creating a dynamic montage expressive of changing conditions under the strong tropical sun. By night, the light creates shadows patterning the building with images of vegetation. The solidity of the block and the uniformity of the facades are emphasized and relieved on the south side by a thirty-floor vertical recess. This houses the tracery of the black external stairs and the skygarden terraces that cantilever at the lift lobbies on each floor, with large terraces including pools and trees on every fourth level so as to open up vertical space to accommodate the vegetative growth. The skygardens allow access and views from the lift lobbies to the greenery outside, and enhance the building with their verdant foliage and their sculptural modelling of the facade. A dramatic accent is provided by the partially freestanding, vine-covered sheer wall that rises the height of the building and visually links the broad open space of the recreation deck with the contained space of the sky terraces.The planning of the tower is straightforward – four apartments to a floor, each with its own generous balcony. The units were intended for young professionals and for people moving from public to private housing.4 The floor areas are not extensive, showing priority for the outside spaces within the site. The small spaces are culturally acceptable, but there was, however, an option for buyers to make the third bedroom’s walls glass as a study, or to leave them out for a bigger living room – approximately one third of the buyers choose the glass walls. Cross ventilation is achieved by all rooms having operable windows and internal wall slots and panels placed to generate fresh air circulation, capitalizing on the behaviour of winds in the Singapore area.Newton Suites addresses disadvantages of sky living, including the cost of divorcing people from the ground and the enjoyment of Singapore’s characteristic lush tropical environment – The Garden City. With its open site, evaporating pools on the deck and skygardens, extensive site planting, landscaping on flat roofs, the treed rooftop spaces of the penthouses and the luxuriant vertical growth of creepers, Newton Suites brings the garden into the sky and achieves a 130 percent landscape site coverage.With these features, plus its enlivening sunshades, the building fulfils its intention to delight and comfort through comprehensive design for climate. As Hassell comments, “While none of the elements are innovative in themselves, it is the resolution of their incorporation into the design DNA, rather than being add-on features, that is successful.” The most convincing aspect of Newton Suites lies in this complementary integration of structural, functional, climatic and aesthetic considerations.One of the significant achievements of WOHA with Newton Suites is that they convinced the clients to go with their ideas, which, according to Wong, “do not necessarily translate into real revenue and marketing selling points but improve quality of living for inhabitants and are a push in the right direction.” This has made possible the example the building offers for the drafting of guidelines for future apartments in Singapore and, more importantly, as a building with promise “to inspire similar effects elsewhere”.5Where to now WOHA? Jennifer Taylor is Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology. 1. WOHA now also has an office in Thailand.2. Peter Davey, “Monsoon Cool”, The Architectural Review, vol 1294, December 2004, pp. 70–71.3. WOHA worked closely with its landscape consultant Cicada, but most of the hard landscaping details originated from the WOHA office.4. Ninety percent of the population of Singapore lives in public housing.5. Abstracted from a criterion for the Aga Khan Award, drawn up 1977.

N°12 The fine detailing of the steel-and-timber pool access rail.

N°13 An interior view showing the arrangement of glass walls forming a study.


WOHA—design architects Wong Mun Summ, Richard Hassell; project manager Chan Ee Mun; project team Alen Low, Andrew MacLennan, Ang Chow Hwee, Chan Ee Mun, Eow Wan Lin, Goh Soon Kim, Johan Hermijanto, Pham Sing Yeong, Sabrina Foong, Janita Han, Melinda Song, Tang Chia Ling.

Mechanical and electrical consultant: Lincolne Scott Ng.

Civil and structural consultant: LBW Consultants.

Cost consultant: KPK Quantity Surveyors.

Landscape: Cicada.

Builder: Kajima Overseas Asia.

Developer: UOL Group Limited.

Photography: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Monday, 28 December 2009

ECO CITY Hamburg, Germany

Germany’s historic Hamburg-Harburg Harbor recently announced the development of a sustainable ECO CITY that combines industry, entertainment and pedestrian life into one super green package.

Designed by international firm Tec Architecture and the global engineering company ARUP, ECO CITY is one of the only projects in the world that is seeking to achieve the highest level of environmental certification from all three major green building rating systems (LEED, BREEAM and DGNB). The project is an exceptional example of how to integrate efficient technology and building methods while fostering social interaction and community rebirth.

ECO CITY is a ground-breaking sustainable urban development that offers a rich mix of classic industry architecture, lovingly restored harbor buildings, and modern architecture for businesses looking forward to the next millennium.

Known as the ‘German Venice’, the port city of Hamburg is rapidly developing beyond its maritime history. Within the past few years Harburg has experienced major advancements in commercial and residential growth, cultivating multifarious layers of enriching diversity. The ECO CITY project proposes to not only enhance Harburg’s current progression, but to set a new standard for environmentally forward construction of our built world.

The initial signs of Germany’s first entirely sustainable creative-industrial corporate development are sprouting up on the shores of Hamburg-Harburg Harbor. Once the site of Hercules Sägemann’s Kamm world-renowned comb factory, and a ship building area before that in the late 19th century, the new ECO CITY Hamburg-Harburg is situated on a site well associated with German entrepreneurship and ingenuity. ECO CITY revives and continues this tradition, offering new generations of businesses workspace that is healthy, sustainable, and inspiring.

Only a few kilometers from Hamburg’s center, ECO CITY lies in Harburg’s harbor area, and can easily be accessed via air, water, road, or rail.

Situated within the commercial and cultural growth of the Hamburg-Harburg Harbor, ECO CITY provides an ideal location for environment‑friendly, cutting edge city development.

‘ECO CITY represents a synergistic approach to urban development,’ explains tec Principal Sebastian Knorr. ‘By working in close cooperation with all the stakeholders and taking into consideration the immediate environmental context of the project, we’ve created a different type of sustainable, creative-industrial complex. We hope that iconic ECO CITY project becomes a model for sustainable urban development.’


Big Thinking with a Small Carbon Footprint:
A Sustainable Creative-Industrial Environment for the Future
‘ARUP thinks about sustainability in every aspect of our design and as engineers we understand the driving principles of the triple bottom line – environmental / social / economic,’ adds ARUP Principal Steve Done. ‘For a project to be truly sustainable, it must embrace and meet each of these categories of need, and ECO CITY certainly accomplishes this.’


Good for the Planet, Good for People
ECO CITY is one of very few projects in the world designed to achieve a globally green rating from the three major green building rating systems on the planet: USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB)’s Program. Currently, ECO CITY is seeking the highest level of environmental certification from all three programs.

Capitalizing on the predominantly westerly winds that blow in off the North Sea, the design proposes two large wind turbines atop high-rise towers. These functioning (as opposed to ornamental) building-integrated turbines will generate more than 10% of the complex’s power, surpassing any other high-rise project in the world. Solar water heating will be used to offset the use of natural gas. Site lighting will be powered by solar technology. Over forty percent of ECO CITY’s footprint will consist of open air. The majority of all visible roofs will be green roofs, serving to slow storm water runoff and significantly reducing the heat island effect of ECO CITY.

Green areas will be elevated to the second story where there is more access to air and sunlight. In addition to roof gardens, more than half the site will be covered with vertical gardens, further minimizing the development’s carbon footprint and maximizing leisure space. These raised green beltways will create a microclimate of sorts, allowing workers and visitors ample outdoor recreation space. The project will utilize environmentally friendly materials that will help promote a healthy indoor building atmosphere. Passive design techniques and efficient façade and building design will reduce energy consumption by about 30%. Existing structures from the original site have been rehabilitated and materials from demolished structures re-used whenever possible. Located within walking distance from several major transportation nodes, ECO CITY is an easy commute or quick bike ride for most visitors.


The Creative-Industrial Complex
ECO CITY represents one of the first creative-industrial complexes. Comprised of ten major structures, ECO CITY offers a variety of different spaces for different purposes, bringing both large-scale industry and creative start-ups together in one, cooperative, and ecofriendly business community. The spaces range from studios to large warehouse and production facilities.

With Phase 1 completed, ECO CITY has secured its first major tenant with the arrival of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, the global manufacturer of printing presses that can trace its history back to the 1800s. The pioneering company brings over 150 new jobs to the area and features an interactive showroom that showcases the company’s advances in the area of ecological printing methods.

During Phase 2, construction will begin on the first high-rise tower that will house a luxury hotel, restaurant, and retail space, attracting people from beyond ECO CITY to the location, making it a destination in and of itself. Construction will also begin on B05, a major office complex located on the very visible corner site of the development. The five-story office block is slated for completion in Spring / Summer 2010.

The final phase of construction will see the completion of ECO CITY, including the second highrise tower, remaining storage and production facilities, and several more auxiliary buildings. Phase 2 is currently in entitlement.



Thursday, 24 December 2009


On 26th December 2003, an earthquake struck Bam area at 5.28 AM, local time, lasting 12 seconds for the major tremors and up to 25 seconds for the minor ones. According to various seismologic sources, it was evaluated between 6.3 and 6.6 on Richter’s scale. It left, according to local sources, about 38,000 dead and about 70 % of the city of Bam destroyed.

This mission was requested to CRATerre, The International Centre for earth construction, within the framework of a multinational agreement of partnership with the French Ministry of Culture and Communication (Direction of Architecture and Heritage) for the French Embassy in Iran and the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organisation (ICHO). Satprem, as a member of CRATerre, and expert in earthen vaulted structures conducted this assessment in May 2004.

The objectives of the mission were the following:

Assessment of the damages caused by the earthquake to the vaulted structures of the historic citadel, Arg-e-Bam, of Bam and its surrounding area.

Analyse the typologies of vaulted structures and the effect of the earthquake on them.

Analyse their pathologies and understand the causes of such behaviour.


Arg-e-Bam was totally abandoned since 1932 and may be, even before for the city. Therefore without any care and even with the little annual rainfall, weathering already severely deteriorated the earth buildings before the earthquake. Therefore before restoration works, what were left were ruins and especially enormous damages for the vaulted roofs. Weathering shows below its effects on a city abandoned since several decades. Very little remains from the roofs and the walls are extremely eroded. This was the state of nearly the entire city before restoration.


During the last few decades, the restoration work attempted to respect the existing structures, which is the basis of restoration ethics. Attention was mostly paid on returning these buildings to their former aspect. Exceptional work was conducted on several buildings, and the results were quite impressive. The main problem of the restoration work was that they had not the foresight to strengthen the old structures. No bond had been made between the damaged structures and the repairs.


A general remark can be done for nearly all vaults and domes in Arg-e-Bam and Bam area: The system vaulted structure/wall is at the limit of stability under static conditions most of the times. The condition of stability is that the line of thrust (LT) should remain in the middle third of the entire masonry.

This is rarely the case for the structures which were still standing. Often LT goes outside the inner third:

In the vault: LT goes sometimes inside the intrados side and/or outside the extrados side of the middle third. This creates tension stresses in the vault.

In the wall: LT goes in the outer third or even out of the wall. Therefore the wall presents a lot of stresses with a bending moment and shears which tend to tilt and split it.

Therefore, already under static condition, the wall is subject to tilt and to shear. Thus, the earthquake emphasizes this stress tremendously and has no mercy on the structure vault/wall which is at its limit of stability.

The vault 1 in Bam, on the right side, was part of a series of vaults and the one on the right side collapsed as well as the front wall. Thus the vault pushed away the side wall on the front part. The back wall got just a shear crack.

The funicular study drawn for the vault 1 in Bam is for the first vault of the series. It takes in account only the cross section of the system, and it shows that it is not stable as LT goes out around mid height of the wall. In fact, this system vault/wall should not be analysed only in cross section but also in plan.

The structure could stand in normal conditions because it is a box system type as the room has a quadrangular plan (± 2.4 x 3m): the walls at both ends act as stiffeners. As long as the corners are sound, the end walls can withstand the tensions created by the thrust.

The analysis for the vault 1 of Arg-E-bam, follows the same principle as for the vault 1 in Bam:

It takes in account only the cross section of the system, and it shows that it is not stable as LT goes out around mid height of the wall. In fact, this system vault/wall should not be analysed only in cross section but also in plan.

The difference is that this structure did not originally have a front wall and therefore the box system was not really acting to reinforce the structure. This vault behaved extraordinarily well under the stress of the earthquake and it challenges the rules of stability, even under normal conditions.



Homes for the future from the past

Internationally, there is still a considerable short-fall in the take-up of energy saving measures in the home and the main reason is that energy is comparatively cheap. Replacing existing windows with double glazing has been popular, more for cosmetic than environmental reasons. So, why bother? Here are some of the reasons.

(1) At the time of writing oil prices are rising due to uncertainties about security of supplies from the Middle East, particularly centring on Iraq, which has the second largest reserves of oil in the region. At the same time, we are being continually reminded that reserves of oil and gas are finite. According to some analysts, the year 2003 will be the time when demand for oil outstrips supply, irrespective of a possible Middle East conflict. The more optimistic oil experts put the date at around 2005–7. For the UK the situation is exacerbated by the decline in North Sea oil production and the fact that gas reserves in this area will be exhausted by about 2016.
Add to this the fact that most nuclear generators will have been decommissioned by roughly the same time and the problems are particularly acute. Price rises would therefore seem to be inevitable. If there is a widespread conflagration in the Middle East the price rise could be astronomic, triggering a world recession led by the USA. This is one very good reason why nations and individuals should minimize their reliance on fossil-based energy.

(2) As if this were not enough, global warming resulting mainly from the burning of fossil fuels is building up momentum. Almost each day there is evidence of climate changes and the situation is effectively irreversible. Even if human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases are levelled off immediately, the momentum in the system would continue to inflict climate damage for decades, even centuries to come. However, if things go on as they are, there is no immediate prospect of stabilizing those gases. The Johannesburg Summit of 2002 deliberately ignored the climate change issue, focusing on sustainable development. From the point of view of most governments and multinational corporations it is ‘business as usual’ which, according to the UN scientists is the worst case scenario (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2002). Without going into detail, the main driver of climate change is the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This acts like a blanket, reflecting heat from the sun back to Earth which acts as a heat accumulator. Before the Industrial Revolution the CO2 concentration was around 270 parts per million by volume (ppmv). Today it is approximately 380 ppmv (Washington Worldwatch Institute, 2003).
The UN CO2 abatement programme has an upper limit of 500 ppmv by 2050. It recognizes that at this level there will be considerable climate damage by flood, storm, ecological and social disruption.
However, this target assumes that the world should have already adopted significant carbon reduction policies. There is still no sign that this will happen; the present shape of business globalization seems to guarantee that business as usual will prevail for the foreseeable future. If the big players prefer to ignore their responsibilities for the future welfare of the planet it is up to individuals to take up the challenge.
The effect of this could be dramatic. In the UK nearly 30 per cent of all CO2 emissions are down to housing. This could quite reasonably be cut by half using the technology. New homes are subject to reasonably stringent energy
efficiency standards; it is the existing stock of homes which present the challenge, in particular those of private home owners and landlords.

(3) The pressure to upgrade our houses will soon come from the authorities. By 2005–6 regulations will come into force in the UK designed to speed up the home-buying process. A vendor will be required to provide a ‘home condition report’ based on a professional survey which will include an energy efficiency assessment (EEA) of the property. As energy prices rise, the EEA will increasingly become a deciding factor in a decision to purchase. At the same time
a European Union directive ‘Energy in Buildings’ is likely to be incorporated into UK law by 2006. This states that houses over 10 years old must have a valid energy certificate at the time of sale.

(4) The upgrading of a property should immediately represent added capital value. At the same time, energy bills could be reduced by as much as 50 per cent per year. As prices rise this represents a valuable revenue gain. According to the government English House Condition Survey, over 85 per cent of pre-1965 housing has no wall insulation. It is no surprise then that up to 60 per cent of energy used in the home is expended on heating.

(5) What tends to be overlooked is the health impact of poorly insulated homes. Many householders endure inadequate room temperatures sometimes as low as 14°C which, for the elderly and infirm, is a major hazard. Of the 55 000 extra winter deaths which occurred in the UK in 1999–2000, up to half may be attributed to inadequate warmth. In addition, that winter there was a sharp rise in respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.
The official standard for warmth in a living room is 21°C and in other rooms 18°C. About 25 per cent of homes in the UK achieve these levels. The minimum temperatures from the point of view of health are 18°C for living rooms and 16°C for other rooms. A government house condition survey for England found that, when the outside temperature fell to 4°C:

50 per cent of owner occupied homes
62 per cent of council homes
95 per cent of private rented apartments
all failed to reach the minimum standard.

Poorly insulated homes are not only cold, they are invariably damp. When warm air comes into contact with cold external walls it condenses into moisture. This, in turn, encourages mould growth which poses a serious health risk. This is a particular problem for the fuel poor. This is recognized by government: ‘The principal effects of fuel poverty are health related, with children, the old, the sick and the disabled most at risk. Cold homes are thought to exacerbate existing illnesses such as asthma and reduce resistance to infections (Fuel Poverty; The New HEES, DETR 1999).

(6) What should also be factored in is the rise in comfort which can be experienced from investing in an insulation and draughtproofing strategy. Cold, uninsulated walls and single-glazed windows cause sharp thermal gradients which are often experienced as cold draughts. Condensation adds to this problem. This is particularly the case with uninsulated floors leading to the warm head–cold feet condition that is especially uncomfortable for people with poor circulation.

(7) Finally there is the matter of social responsibility. As mentioned above, it is becoming more evident that the welfare of the planet will increasingly depend on the actions of individuals and local communities. Upgrading one’s home is not only a personal act of social responsibility, it may also stimulate the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ phenomenon. In addition there is the point that if a number of householders decide to upgrade simultaneously they may reap the financial benefits of bulk purchase through a large contract.

Eco-Refurbishment: Peter F. Smith

Climate change – nature or human nature?

The key question is this: climate change is now widely accepted as being a reality, so, is it a natural process in a sequence of climate changes that have occurred over the paleoclimatic record or is it being driven by humans? If we hold to the former view then all we can hope for is to adapt as best we can to the climate disruption. On the other hand, if we accept that it is largely human induced, then it follows that we ought to be able to do something about it.
There is widespread agreement among climate scientists worldwide that the present clear evidence of climate change is 90 per cent certain to be due to human activity mainly though the burning of fossil-based energy. This should be good enough to persuade us that human action can ultimately put a brake on the progress of global warming and its climate consequences.
Once the issues are understood, a commitment to renewable energy sources and bioclimatic architectural design should become unavoidable. Inspiring that commitment is the purpose of the first part of the book which then goes on to illustrate the kind of architecture that will have to happen as part of a broader campaign to avert the apocalyptic prospect of catastrophic climate change.

The carbon cycle
Carbon is the key element for life on Earth. Compounds of the element form the basis of plants, animals and micro-organisms. Carbon compounds in the atmosphere play a major part in ensuring that the planet is warm enough to support its rich diversity of life.
The mechanism of the carbon cycle operates on the basis that the carbon locked in plants and animals is gradually released into the atmosphere after they die and decompose. This atmospheric carbon is then taken up by plants which convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into stems, trunks, leaves, etc. through photosynthesis. The carbon then enters the food chain as the plants are eaten by animals.
There is also a geochemical component to the cycle mainly consisting of deep ocean water and rocks. The former is estimated to contain 36 billion tonnes and the latter 75 million billion tonnes of carbon. Volcanic eruptions and the weathering of rocks release this carbon at a relatively slow rate.
Under natural conditions the release of carbon into the atmosphere is balanced by the absorption of CO2 by plants. The system is in equilibrium, or would be if it were not for human interference.
The main human activity responsible for overturning the balance of the carbon cycle is the burning of fossil fuels which adds a further 6 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere over and above the natural flux each year. In addition, when forests are converted to cropland the carbon in the vegetation is oxidised through burning and decomposition. Soil cultivation and erosion add further carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
If fossil fuels are burnt and vegetation continues to be destroyed at the present rate, the CO2 in the atmosphere will treble by 2100. Even if there is decisive action on a global scale to reduce carbon emissions, atmospheric concentrations will still double by this date.
With the present fuel mix, every kilowatt hour of electricity used in the UK releases one kilogram of CO2. The burning of one hectare of forest gives off between 300 and 700 tonnes of CO2.
These are some of the factors which account for the serious imbalance within the carbon cycle which is forcing the pace of the greenhouse effect which, in turn, is pushing up global temperatures.

The greenhouse effect
A variety of gases collaborate to form a canopy over the Earth which causes some solar radiation to be reflected back from the atmosphere, thus warming the Earth’s surface, hence the greenhouse analogy. The greenhouse effect is caused by long-wave radiation being reflected by the Earth back into the atmosphere and then reflected back by trace gases in the cooler upper atmosphere, thus causing additional warming of the Earth’s surface (Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1: The greenhouse ‘blanket’

The main greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and tropospheric ozone (the troposphere is the lowest 10–15 kilometres of the atmosphere).
The sun provides the energy which drives weather and climate. Of the solar radiation which reaches the Earth, one third is reflected back into space and the remainder is absorbed by the land, biota, oceans, ice caps and the atmosphere. Under natural conditions the solar energy absorbed by these features is balanced by outgoing radiation from the Earth and atmosphere. This terrestrial radiation in the form of longwave, infra-red energy is determined by the temperature of the Earthatmosphere system. The balance between radiation and absorption can change due to natural causes such as the 11-year solar cycle. Without the greenhouse shield the Earth would be 33C cooler, with obvious consequences for life on the planet.
Since the industrial revolution, the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation has resulted in an increase of 26 per cent in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. In addition, rising population in the less developed countries has led to a doubling of methane emissions from rice fields, cattle and the burning of biomass. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide emissions have increased by 8 per cent since pre-industrial times (IPCC 1992).

Architecture in a Climate of Change: Peter F. Smith

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Sustainable Energy

Until about twenty years ago energy sustainability was thought of simply in terms of availability relative to the rate of use. Today, in the context of the ethical framework of sustainable development, including particularly concerns about global warming, other aspects are equally important.

The concept of energy sustainability encompasses not only the imperative of securing adequate energy to meet future needs, but doing so in a way that (1) is compatible with preserving the underlying integrity of essential natural systems, including averting dangerous climate change; (2) extends basic energy services to the more than 2 billion people worldwide who currently lack access to modern forms of energy; and (3) reduces the security risks and potential for geopolitical conflict that could otherwise arise from an escalating competition for unevenly distributed energy resources.

Sustainable energy sources are most often regarded as including all renewable sources, such as bio fuels, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, wave power and tidal power.

Characteristics of the Ideal Energy Source:

1. Sustainable (renewable). 2. Non-polluting. 3. Not dangerous to people or the planet. 4. High-grade energy useful for any purpose. 5. Silent. 6. Supplies power where it is needed (no need to transport energy). 7. Most available at peak demand time, this is frequently a hot, sunny summer day. 8. Has additional benefit of creating the building envelope (displaces conventional building materials). 9. High reliability. 10. No moving parts. 11. No maintenance required. 12. Modular (can come in any size required). 13. Low operating cost. 14. Low initial cost. 15. Supplies energy all the time. (lechner. 2001)

Traditional Architecture

Considerable confusion exists in the discussion of traditional buildings and it seems wise at the outset to establish the limits of terms and definitions in order to avoid further confusion. The word traditional refers both to procedures and material objects that have become accepted as a norm in a society, and whose elements are passed on from generation to generation, usually orally, or more rarely by documents that have codified orally transmitted knowledge, instructions, and procedures. This is not to imply that traditional processes and objects do not change over time. They often do, but usually slowly enough that their provenance is clearly seen or easily established. Though change is a constant in any society, it is the rate at which a society is forced to absorb the new that determines whether it can retain its integrity (Carver 1981, 27).

In traditional societies, people have to make do with whatever is at hand. The form and arrangement of dwellings, for example, are constrained by the availability of local materials, the nature of the local climate and the socioeconomic facts of life. To a modern observer, the material world thus created can have enormous appeal because everything in it has a purpose, and because its aesthetic qualities emerge unobtrusively out of the serious business of living. (Tuan 1989, 28).

The concept of “traditional dwelling,” normally employed to describe a simple structure, often can be quite a complex conception. In warm environments where so much of daily life is lived in the open, the concept of a house as a structure is not as important as that of the entire compound, “the idea of a bit of land which is screened for privacy and which contains some enclosed internal space, and some outside space. This whole thing taken together is thought of as the home environment. Each part within is used as seems most appropriate in the circumstances” (Rodger 1974, 105). Such a view is common throughout many traditional societies in areas of warmer temperature, and is especially strong where individuals live in extended family groups, or even clans (Thompson 1983, 204). The concept is further clarified by Alison Shaw’s (1988, 54) observation that “in Pakistan ownership of land is more important than ownership of a house.” The cooler climate equivalent of this extended concept of the dwelling is the notion of the farmstead, with all its buildings and facilities, as the unit of residence, rather than the emphasis being placed on just the dwelling. These expanded concepts of the traditional dwelling will reappear throughout subsequent chapters.

“Tangible evidence of the past found in extant architecture enhances the present by providing a time perspective and by creating through contrast and harmony a feeling of location or situation.
Furthermore, a sense of continuity and permanence conveyed by surviving material culture provides psychological security” (Robinson 1981, xviii). Also, some secondary elements may change, but at the same time others do not, thus verifying the traditional nature of the
object or procedure. “By its relative immutability the dwelling offers a sustaining sense of security against the uncertainties of a milieu in which change is inevitable, but directions are imperfectly
perceived and mechanisms are poorly understood” (Steward1965, 28).

Reference :
Traditional Buildings: Allen G. Nobel