Climate Drives Design

September 8, 2018

Buildings are structures that primarily provide shelter and security, protecting us from the elements, the sun, rain, wind, and extreme temperatures.  Depending on the climate and the geographic location, Architects design buildings in such a way that they are able to handle the elements and provide the required protection and comfort.

 

Keeping the water out of the building is one of the first goals when designing a building.  The geographic location can dictate the design of the roof, the wind exposure, the slope and materials, the size and location of the gutters and downspouts, etc.  The amount of rain determines the site features that shall be integrated to handle the quantity and quality of the storm water.  These features include storm structures, rain gardens, rain barrels, bio-retention, bio-filtration strips and other landscape systems. 

 

US Climate Zone Map - Building Energy Codes establish baseline requirements based on these zones.

 

Designing a state of the art building envelope with insulation and breathability is also another design measure that addresses the temperatures, comfort and energy efficiency of the building.  Maintaining an optimal interior building climate, temperature and humidity have a lot to do with how the outer building skin is designed.  The principle of thermal insulation is by the proper installation of insulation using energy-efficient materials that would reduce the heat loss or heat gain, which leads to a reduction of energy cost.

 

This envelope contributes to the efficiency and performance of the HVAC systems and energy savings.  Based on the climate zone, the building code requires a minimum insulation value to be included in the walls, roofs, attics, foundations, and floors.  As the climate conditions have changed the building codes and energy conservation needs have also changed. Following is the insulation and fenestration requirements by component, for each climate zone. Learn in a nutshell where to insulate your home - Energy Saver

Daylighting the building is part of the design also driven by climate.  The orientation of the building on site, the amount of sun and daylighting would need to be controlled by the careful placement of windows and their performance specifications.  Double glazed windows with Low E Coating have become the norm.  The window performance rating includes different categories such as the U-factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, Air Leakage, Visible Transmittance and Condensation Resistance.  Learn more by visiting these websites:

 

National Fenestration Rating Council http://www.nfrc.org

Window Technologies / Understanding Windows https://www.efficientwindows.org/lowe.php

Energy Star / Energy Performance Rating

 

As the climate changes,  so does the design.

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