D.Sc. Thesis

Architecture and Environment – Modeling a Sustainable Architecture, 1996

There is no doubt that climate is among the important factors that influence the quality of the architectural solution from the energetic point of view, and should be taken into consideration during the design process. Yet, we witness repeated attempts to implant an universal, international style in architecture. Such a style is, generally, more a matter of fashion than consideration towards the location. On the other side, examples from history can teach us that sustainable architecture is created only while paying attention to the local conditions, using and taking advantage of its natural resources. Therefore, a constant dialog and direct link should generate between location, climate, and architecture.

In passive solar architecture, the building does not serve only as a shelter, but becomes a system seeking for beneficial conditions with a minimal consumption of non renewable energy. From this aspect, architecture is environmental architecture, consuming from the natural resources of the environment the necessary minimum, without affecting it at all. This is one of the many aspects of Sustainable Architecture. Nowadays, it is evident that a private solar house is not, necessarily, the optimal solution if it is detached from considering the problem at a wider scale. Therefore, appropriate comprehensive planning should consider the way of bringing together the different units into a complete building and the arrangement of the building on the terrain, to create an urban fabric. Arrangement of buildings on the terrain should consider the solar rights, the blowing winds, with the purpose to achieve a good ventilation, a minimum of traffic between the buildings, so that energy for transports is saved and, as well, when choosing materials for use, the quantity of overall energy invested in manufacture of building materials and the possibility to recycle these materials at the end of their use.

The purpose of the research is to develop a computerized model (SustArc), based on knowledge and procedural methods, intending to create alternatives of architectural design, dealing with climatic, energetic and environmental aspects at the residential quarter’s scale. The emphasis is on energy related issues, including energy for heating, cooling, lighting, traffic and materials. In the proposed model, the architectural design process is understood as a process in which there are many participants, each of them fulfilling a certain function in this process and influencing the shape of the solution. The participants are defined according to the subject they are dealing with, such as climate, energy, traffic, etc. The role of each participant is to act as “consultant” in his field and to assist in the definition of the solution in each design stage. Thus, the model enables to achieve a design, taking into consideration a variety of subjects (multi-disciplinary design) by combining several tools, brought to the architect’s design table whenever necessary, including in the conceptual stage. From this point of view, the model is an IDS-Integrated Design System. The process of taking design decisions at each design stage is performed by interaction between the designer and the different design tools which exist within the system, which support the process of creation and evaluation (consultants).

The SustArc model, which is proposed in this research, deals mainly with the conceptual design stage and the preliminary design stage. The conceptual design stage deals with the determination of the urban fabric. In this stage, attention is given mainly to the establishment of the general geometric features of the design solution and to examination of the various influences of street’s orientation and geometry of blocks on the solution’s functionality and quality. Decisions concerning these geometric parameters will determine to a great degree the quality of the solution and, therefore, it is most important that the model should assist decision taking concerning these parameters already in the earlier design stages. In the preliminary design stage, a more detailed examination is made of subjects related to the different buildings on the defined lots and to the open spaces between them, emphasizing the determination of geometric features of the proposed solution and the preliminary selection of materials and details of buildings. In this stage, too, the different public activities are located in the residential quarter and zones of influence of the different public services for the inhabitants of the quarter are examined.

When dealing on the scale of a residential quarter, the geometry of the urban fabric is most important, i.e., orientation and width of the streets, division of parcels, volume, proportion and orientation of the buildings. The determination of the urban fabric should be made according to the climatic conditions, assuring exposure of open spaces and solar systems to the sun in winter and creation of shaded areas in summer. A desirable wind in summer and protection from disagreeable winds in winter should be ensured, as well. Planning of a quarter which, from the beginning, ignores climatic, energetic subjects, will create difficulties in planning of any singular subjects (orientation of the main facade, proximity of nearby buildings, etc.) and in achievement of thermal comfort conditions in buildings and open spaces. In addition, the location and the radius of influence of various services within the quarter should be determined, in order to minimize the invested energy in traffic between the different buildings. These distances may vary in function of the means of transportation (walking, bicycles, private cars, public transports) and the possible density of construction, in order to preserve the building’s solar rights in the quarter.

SustArc and all the design tools that were developed in the framework of this research, include two levels of treatment for each subject, adapted to the stages of conceptual design and preliminary design, and supporting the designer on the level of advice, creation, critic and evaluation of the following subjects: solar envelopes for preservation of solar rights, shadow casting, solar radiation, winds, transportation and visualization. Thus, the model allows, by using these tools, to obtain assistance in the early design stages, and to ensure an initial good solution, giving attention to a variety of subjects.

Systematic use of the model will help in the development of recommendations and design guidelines, to assist the designer to take different design decisions already at the beginning of the design process. The design guidelines to be developed will be in the future part of the system’s knowledge base which will be based, as well, on the accumulated experience.

© Copyright 1996 by I. G. Capeluto