Climate + Architecture: living with change

Climate in architecture is the response to the particular, local, microclimate – sun, shade and shadow, water as it falls from the sky and water once it hits the ground, breeze that cools and wind that chills, warmth and heat.

Climate in architecture is most apparent in areas of extreme climates for these impair our existence. Therefore as climate becomes more extreme everywhere, architecture must offer countermeasures for adaptation.

Climate in architecture reflects our sensitivity to the environment, either separating a building from its environment or seeking integration.

Climate in architecture is not only the response but seeks to utilise nature’s forces to our advantage – it influences building form and building use.

Climate is therefore an indispensable factor of architectural creation, its driver and its measure of success.

Climate in architecture is not a new idea, it is only that we have chosen to principally ignore it for the last 50 or so years. The climate has changed but what has also changed is the number of people, the density of cities and suburbs, the patterns of working and living, the composition of families and communities. Some of these are more or less affected by climate, but all are affected by the larger environment. Architecture is a means of ignoring or acknowledging the changes, of responding with sensitivity, overreacting or not reacting at all. Fundamentally architecture must acknowledge climate.

The primary questions are how to live well in increased density; how to enhance privacy and individual amenity; how to control and utilise the free resources of nature – light, air, water; and how to minimise its adverse effects – heat, cold, damp, floods, humidity.

The usual approach is to isolate and condition – buildings which turn inward, rely on mechanical systems and have no regard for their occupants comfort. A better approach is one of ecological integration – buildings which acknowledge the microclimate, turn outward and rely primarily on nature to enhance comfort. This approach integrates climate into the architectural expression thru efficient planning, not wasting precious space; passive design harvesting daylight and ventilation but preventing overheating, cold and drafts; integrating the landscape as a design element for shading, cooling and visual pleasure; material choices and detailing both functional and pleasant to the touch.

MarraYeh_SabahHouse_006257A building that acknowledges climate must adapt to it season by season and this requires the active participation of its occupants.

Architecture can separate us from the environment or it can create for us a shelter within the environment both comfortable and connected, at home in the world.