BioClimatic Design: Book Review

Sustainability and eco design are now common place in todays built environment, yet how appropriate is our level of understanding and relationship with natural and bioclimatic conditions necessary to address climate change?

9780691169736-us-300Design for Climate, Bioclimatic Approach to Architecture Regionalism by Victor Olgyay originally published in 1962/3 has been recently updated with new essays and insights on climate change and design.

Today, even though we may have far greater understanding of climatology and potential solutions, we still strive to understand how built environment design will influence the drive to cap global warming to 1.5 deg c. The core teachings and messages in Design for Climate remain just as relevant, and indeed perhaps far more so.

The original book is populated with wonderful pen-drawn climatic and bioclimatic charts and illustrations that pull the reader in to discover more. Sadly, much of the data, charts and methodologies included within the book would now be included within BIM environmental modules, even on smart phones, based on algorithms, and possibly applied without in-depth knowledge of for example sun path diagrams and insolation affects.

I say sadly, as we have perhaps lost that connection and innate understanding of the natural climatic conditions pertaining to the individual places in which we build.

Considering that the original edition would have been conceived, researched and produced without the use of computers and the internet, the meteorology, climatology and biological data incorporated into Design for Climate are outstanding.

There are a number of areas in the book, both within the original text and in the new prefaces that resonate with where I am in my sustainability research, practice and thinking for FutuREstorative.

For example there is a resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy, and of the flower metaphor for buildings rooted in place, harvesting all energy and water whilst being adapted to climate and site. Words which would not have been out of place within Olgyays text and charts.

Within the new preface, Victor W Olgyay describes how the very local bioclimatic conditions at Limone, Lake Garda, have given rise to very specific architecture, something that Living Building Challenge students on the annual Regeneration design competition, held nearby in Dro, take into account as they prepare designs for local municipal buildings along Living Building Challenge principles.

1962 also saw the publication of Silent Spring, in an era of environmental awakening, of pollution awareness and of the impact or relationship of buildings with the climate, which ushered in the modern environmental protest movement.

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Earth Day Catalogue

Through the text and the images, even the paper quality, I was reminded of another near-contemporary text, towards the end of that decade, the Earth Day Catalogue and its mantra of that time, still relevant today, to Stay Hungry Stay Foolish.

Further there is a striking continuity which caught my eye, Victor Olygay passed away on the first earth day in 1970. Part of the organisation team on that day was Denis Hayes, who, 40 years later would apply the essence of Design with Climate, translated through the Place and the other Living Building Challenge imperatives on the built environments green flagship at the Bullitt Centre.

Design for Climate includes a number of concepts that now seem way ahead of its time (or rather concepts not fully understood or adopted by practice) re-emphasised in the new Scannable Documentessays. For example, the concept of interlocking fields for climate balance – suggesting that architecture design should be in balance with biology, technology and climatology. Something which is very close to the current thinking of integrating digital technologies (BIM) with bio-data, nature and climatology within todays restorative sustainable design and build.

Core to Design for Climate text is the concept of comfort, again a concept central to todays sustainable building design, for example within passive house thinking. Olgyay quotes a Dr Cannon “the development of a nearly thermostable state in our buildings should be regarded as one of the most valuable advances in the evolution of buildings” An outcome we have lost sight of perhaps in our search for ever more energy efficient buildings under the label of sustainability, but now being addressed through a balancing wellbeing and healthy building agenda

I was somewhat surprised to note that demand for Design for Climate has outstripped supply, most likely as being an AIA recommended text for architect studies. Indeed if that is the case then why are we not seeing more buildings fully bioclimatic focused? Maybe this new and updated version will correct that, bringing understanding of bioclimatic design principles to a new generation.

In one of the new essays, (The Roots of BioClimatic Design) John Reynolds comments “while the teachings of these are still rippling out there are many corners of our built environment that cry for their application”


 

I am grateful toMolly Miller via Princeton Press. to forwarding a copy of Design For Climate for review here and within FutuREstorative

 

 

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Green Revolutionary Engineering

Integral_cover_9x7_FINAL_webIntegral Revolutionary Engineering – a review.

Every now and again you come across a book that is both simple and profound, full of ah ha moments, of innovative ideas and yet seemingly familiar. One such book I have mentioned often on this blog (and gifted to many) is Yvon Chouinard’s “Let my people go surfing”  to which Integral Revolutionary Engineering book published by Ecotone has a similar feel.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Kevin Hydes at an Inetgral reception at EcoBuild this week, and picked up a copy of Revolutionary Engineering. Kevin served as the Chair of the USGBC  2005-2006, was a founder and director of CanadaGBC and a former Chair of the WorldGBC and is Founder and CEO of the Integral Group.

Integral are a global network of design professionals collaborating under a single deep green engineering umbrella, providing building system design and energy analysis services, trading as Elementa in the UK

Revolutionary Engineering is a ‘treatise of innovation in deep green building design, featuring stories and ideas from some of the worlds leading engineers and designers’

And it does what it says on the lid, providing a portfolio of the Integral Groups experience of design on deep green buildings, an insight not only into what is possible today but what is highly achievable in the future.

That the forward is written by Jason McLellan (see bio) gives the clue that this a treatise of building services design on Living Building Challenge projects.

And there is a nice affinity here. Leeds, where we founded the UK Collaborative for Living Building Challenge is also Kevin Hydes’ home town.  Now residing in San Francisco, Kevin reminisces in his preface letter on a post industrial Leeds, with belching coal fired power plants and coal from Yorkshire burning in his very home. Times have changed, in Leeds and in sustainable construction since then.

Molly Miller (@miller_mm), author, is Integrals story teller with a background in sustainability writing at Rocky Mountain Institute and Mother Earth News. And what a great title – why doesn’t every company have someone with the story teller title, official or otherwise?.

In conversational tone, Molly includes many Kevin Hydes insights scattered and emphasised throughout, alongside quotes and comments from many other green build thinkers and project team members.

As I read Revolutionary Engineering, I was looking for hints as to how BIM would fit in, yet,  found it refreshing that BIM doesn’t feature. Although I am sure it must have been used to some degree on the large Hospital projects and Empire State Building refurbishment case studies.

… refreshing to read a book with Revolutionary in the title that doesn’t try to sell BIM as the panacea for all things design and construction, even green construction.

Revolutionary Engineering sees other drivers across its fours chapters Imagine, Perform, Sustain and Accelerate. For example, creative leadership and collaboration (there are echoes here of our collective leadership tweetchat from Tuesday evening), innovation and diversity

One of the barriers to innovative thinking and collaboration across the construction sector is acknowledged as lack of diversity – of age and gender. This is indeed something I’ve seen evident in my own work in the sustainability leadership and social media world. Revolutionary Engineering, sees that the processes and policies of an organisation need to be appropriate to women,  consciously arranging hierarchies and teams to be collaborative

The character of innovation relies on different ways of thinking and a homogenous group is just not going to provide that.

Addressing the Cost v Value issue, Revolutionary Engineering reminds me of the 1:5:200 and Be Valuable thinking of a decade ago, brought bang up to date in line with deep green buildings. What must be of interest to every client and contractor seeking sustainable buildings is how Integral brought the Living Building project at Simon Frasier University in on ‘standard budget’

Whilst an reviting read it is also challenging, for eg on the higher cost for going green issue –  to cite cost as an argument against energy efficiency or innovative practices in design is often an excuse to do something the same comfortable way it has always been done”

The book’s case study on the new Clif Bar headquarters is fascinating, illustrating the importance of putting the user first. “The occupant is the star of high performance buildings”  I must say I find Clif Bar an interesting organization for personal reasons, from a CSR and cycling perspective, so this case study added much to my understanding

A small criticism, a lack of page numbers and possibly too many images of one project in particular – the Vancouver VanDusen Botanical Gardens – it is a great Living Building Challenge project that I had the chance to visit in Vancouver a few years back – but perhaps too many images here that you get the feeling of ‘space filling’

In summary we can, as the UK construction industry learn much from the experiences and insights in Revolutionary Engineering as we start to embrace deep green and Living Building Challenge thinking it should be on the reading list of all sustainability professionals, services engineers and a text for construction and building services students … to further the ‘collaborative commitment to relentless momentum’

Integral are participating (exhibiting and talking) at the Construction21 Green Build Virtual Expo in May, prior to then, I will be in conversation with Integral as part of our EXPOC21chat tweetchat series.