Climate Adapted Buildings – The Modern Paradox

One of the major functions of a building is to provide shelter from the climatic rigors, which may vary tremendously throughout the seasons and across the world. A building must be adapted to the local climatic conditions.

The skin of the building

The outer layer of a building compares to the layer of skin on the human body in many ways. It breathes, perspires, cools you down, and heats you up, according to the climatic conditions.

The cold gives the skin goose bumps and the body starts to shiver to produce more heat, and the skin of the building close up to preserve the temperature as the inner sources of heat are turned up. And, the heat makes you get undressed to expose your bare skin to the cooling breeze, and the windows and doors of your house are opened up to allow a draft to fly through and cool it down.

Clothing for any weather
The temperatures may vary across the seasons as much as 70-80 degrees Celsius on extremes. It poses quite a challenge to build houses that are adaptable and comfortable in all kinds of temperatures. In addition there are the geographical and seasonal variations of extreme wind, rain, snow and sunshine to consider.

It is like finding one set of clothes that you have to wear all year around, no matter what the weather is actually like. Unlike the layer of skin, which you protect with another layer of clothes, the outer layer of your buildings stays put (even though you can open the doors and windows). Imagine wearing an all-year wind jacket, rain suit, down jacket, and a breezy summer dress, all at once!

The static nature of buildings

A building cannot shed its outer layer of clothing, or switch from a thick wool sweater to a wind jacket when it is appropriate, so you need to take it all into consideration simultaneously. A building must provide an indoor environment with stable temperatures, which protects you from the wind, snow, rain, and sun, all year around!

A well known solution

A well-ventilated earth hollow with a hearth does this superbly, and it is not without reason that the soil cave is the oldest and most widely used piece of architecture in history. It is cheap and easily built, and it is 100% ecological (when well-ventilated)!

The paradox

Human beings of today are not prone to considering the earthen cave an ideal dwelling. The list of demands put on our architecture seems to be never-ending. In addition to provide shelter from the climatic forces our houses are also symbols of status. As such they need to be fresh and stylish, which, lets face it, earth isn`t. Throughout history the need to shock and impress with our buildings have moved humankind further and further away from the simple solution of the earthen cave, but the climatic rigors still prevail.

As opposed to buildings made of earth, Modern Architecture is often built of materials that balances temperatures poorly, that do not “breathe” or let out humidity, and that emit toxins to the indoor environment. Therefore the problem of poor indoor air quality have become one of Modernisms greatest challenges in the building industry.

Padded balloons on life support
To compensate for this problem, our buildings are getting equipped with increasingly complex ventilation systems that regulate the quality and temperature of the indoor air. In order for these technical installations to work properly windows and doors must be kept closed at all times!

You may wonder whether our buildings have seized to be supplements to our skin and clothing, and instead turned into hermetically sealed, technically dependent, living machines.

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