“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
― Henry Ford
People most often do not know what they want. However, they know what the driving factor that is needed is, Henry Ford knew speed is the requirement and he found the Ford Motor company. This is also comparable to sustainability, most often the common people do not know what can be the new generation change.
But in today’s complex world we have to learn to adapt to the change in hand with the existing and find the best solution. The most common example is the insulation, the new trending application in refurbishment projects. However, what we most often forget to see is the capacity of the building and how long is it used. in a recent annual international Facade Conference in Lucerne, Marco Perino correctly identified the ‘Law of diminishing returns’ where in insulation materials need to be replaced every 20 years. His suggestion was to identify the layers and consider their life span. but I believe that he is missing the most important implication: that there is a missing link in a through calculation between the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)- that compares embodied energy with the energy saved and ‘ the relatively less sustainable option considered’ – the floor heating. for example, if a house is used generally during 8 hours a night in wintertime and needs heating only during that time, using floor heating system with geo-thermal might prove to be a more sustainable option then insulation, as the life span of the former is atleast twice.
Another important point to be noted- by architects- is to not fight against climate but integrate with the climate. In essence, one should not fight by exploit the climate. The “one size fits all” agenda is something that should be reconsidered. The architects should reconsider climate over artsy trends in architecture- glass architecture being the major one. We must understand the underlying design concept and provide daylight when it is possible instead of having the shade on to avoid thermal gains. In many middle-eastern locations, it proves to be unresponsive to the climate, as it accelerates heat gain by incident solar angle. Energy can be reduced to a great extent if we as architects design buildings sensitive to climate, even analysing the local and ancient architecture. The ancient Mexican community for example, designed their roads and houses in such a way that they shade each other. In the new generation of imitating what looks good on neighbour, doesn’t necessitate your own well-being. Infact, buildings can even be instrumental in clean energy production by Building Integrated PV (BIPV).
Building envelopes are instrumental to upto 70% of increase in energy consumption due to heat gain and lighting. Of course clients can have strange demands that we as climate conscious designers know are not the best option. But its upto us as architects to tell the clients what’s best, and upto us to set the new trend in a sustainable building envelopes.