Although human beings have survived hundreds of thousands of years adapting to all kinds of vicissitudes and climatic conditions, it has been in the last two centuries that they have managed not only to understand but also to control the environment in order to live and work between intervals of temperature and humidity within an unbeatable state of well-being if we compare it with what happened in previous periods of humanity.
Even considering the climatic variations due to the geographical location and weather conditions of the different seasons of the year, we have managed to live and work within the thresholds of human comfort. Obviously, I am always referring to the Western world, but to a certain extent, it can be extrapolated to humanity as a whole, since looking at Max Roser’s figures for Our World in Data humanity is improving as a whole.
During human evolution, we have far exceeded, thanks to science and technology, bioclimatic systems that increasingly require more energy to make them viable. However, popular wisdom and bioclimatic houses that have known how to use energy economically and efficiently have been despised for a long time.
But I firmly believe that it is this century-old architecture and experience that we must redeem in order to reduce environmental impacts, energy savings and the use of local materials. In it, a diversity of ecological strategies has been selected due to the scarcity of means and whose pragmatic tests have been developed for centuries. As a result, we should not lose such an exceptional heritage, and we architects should primarily recover this experience in our current sustainable constructions, reinventing ourselves with techniques, with ecological materials, that could be combined with the new technologies available today, and applying them to our projects. that we do in our professional careers.
How to apply the old knowledge to bioclimatic houses?
At present, due to the amazing push of technological advances, construction practices based on passive design have been abandoned, so that the need to adjust hygrothermal parameters inside buildings is solved by mechanical systems and wasteful installations. of energy that in a greater proportion are not renewable, without taking advantage of the intrinsic advantages of local and climatic conditions.
We do not stop to think that much of the energy needed to heat or cool a building can be obtained practically free of charge if it starts from a good architectural design taking into account the bioclimatic conditions which can help us get inside comfort zones.
Here we are going to analyse the different aspects that must be taken into account when designing homes so that the most appropriate passive strategies can be applied depending on the local climatic and geographical conditions.
Although the Technical Building Code in Spain (CTE) increasingly forces us the architects to reduce the use of non-renewable energy in our buildings, our efforts should focus, in the first instance, on the implementation of design strategies that reduce energy demand, adapting to the climatic conditions of each location.
Since the climatic conditions vary depending on each location, since the design of a house in Alicante is not the same as designing the same house in La Corunna, obviously the construction techniques and the materials used must be adapted to the place where it is located. go to build and that is why the strategy to follow should be the following:
Using this guide
1. Compile all the climatic information of the pertinent locality, quantifying the available renewable energy sources such as radiation, wind regime, etc.
2. Carry out a bioclimatic analysis of the information collected about the locality.
3. Define a procedure that allows determining the most efficient passive systems for that particular location.
Regardless of the global geographic location, that is, the location of the project on a global scale, it must be analysed in more detail, since local variations pose important climatic variations. Although it may seem unbelievable, some local locations may have an impact on the climate due to regional characteristics such as topography, the existence of vegetation or the proximity to the sea or ocean that alters the thermal amplitude. So, in Spain, the temperate Mediterranean climate can be subdivided into particular meso-climates depending on the environment in which we find ourselves.
The geographical factors where we are; The Alicante and Murcia area is influenced by the following factors, but it could also be transferred to other Spanish towns:
• Orographic unevenness and its physiognomy
• Orientation regarding the orography and the Mediterranean coast in this case
• Distance from the Sea
First of all, we must establish what are the comfort conditions of the interior environment in relation to the parameters of the exterior environmental conditioning of the space that we try to control and these conditions are defined based on four different but highly related systems, such as hygrothermal comfort, visual, acoustic and indoor air quality, we must always take into account the use of the spaces that we are going to design.
By hygrothermal comfort or more properly hygrothermal comfort we mean the absence of thermal discomfort. In physiology, it is said that there is hygrothermal comfort when the thermoregulatory mechanisms of the body do not have to intervene for a seated activity and with light clothing. This situation can be registered by means of indices that should not be exceeded so that the thermoregulatory systems such as the body’s own metabolism, sweating or others are not put into operation. In each of these systems, comfort conditions can be defined as the limit of environmental parameters within a margin that allows carrying out the planned activities in a given environment.
In this way, hygrothermal comfort is established as the situation in which heat and humidity exchanges between users and the interior environment can be adequately carried out.
With reference to visual comfort, it is determined by an adequate distribution of illuminance on the work plane and the absence of glare and knowing how to make the most of the existing landscape, establishing a link between the use of internal spaces and the ability to see the best landscapes that the outdoor environment can offer us.
In the case of acoustic comfort, it is circumvented to obtain acoustic insulation that will be related to external noise pollution so that the insulation is related to the exterior and interior noise, always depending on the use that we have to provide in interior spaces, not the use of a hospital or a library is the same as an industrial or sports use.
With reference to indoor air quality, the concentration of CO2 is limited as well as the number of suspended particles.
As previously explained, we understand hygrothermal comfort to be the absence of thermal discomfort.
The sensation of hygrothermal comfort is obtained by controlling the temperature of the human body and the humidity in relation to the parameters demanded by the skin and mucous membranes that are in contact with the environment. The metabolism of the human body and the activity that it carries out dissipates a certain amount of heat around 65 W at rest to 520 W for more intense activities. This activity and the metabolism itself extract water from the human organism in the form of a vapour that is introduced into the environment.
Thermoregulation is the ability of the human body to moderate its temperature. In order for man’s internal temperature to remain constant, the thermal balance that contemplates heat inputs and losses by convection, conduction, radiation, and evaporation must remain constant.
Classification of passive media types
With the analysis of all the available local meteorological data, the wind regimes must be studied more rigorously since the local orography can have a great impact on the weather of the building itself.
Once the climatic study has been carried out, we will proceed to the selection of the appropriate systems through four phases:
· Site selection and analysis
Determine the factors that have the greatest incidence on the design
· Investigation of the environment
Selected system logs
Once the pertinent investigations have been carried out, we will establish general strategies regarding:
GENERAL STRATEGY in bioclimatic houses:
Building envelope Design
Study of solar capture and shading Energy
Energy preservation techniques
Form of thermal accumulation
Analyse the location of the building
Analyse the shape of the building
Analyse the orientation of the building
Increase thermal insulation
Use glass with low thermal emissivity and frames with low thermal transmittance
Use facades and roofs with high thermal inertia
Winter heating strategy
Add as much glazing area as possible but can be covered from the outside. Glazed gallery (Note 1)
Include a home automation system, if possible, to control the use of blinds or awnings through sensors
|Use collector walls and accumulators and/or Trombe walls.
Summer Cooling Strategy
|Natural ventilation of the building
Add the largest area of glazing but that can be covered from the outside
The chimney effect takes advantage of the openings in the facades in the upper part of the building.
|They are devices for capturing the air that circulates above the houses. They consist of openings located in the upper part of towers that rise above the houses and are built for this purpose.
|Direct reduction of air temperature
Add water surfaces such as fountains, water diffusers, etc.
Add vegetation of plants with large leaves such as elephant ears, Adam’s ribs, etc.
Introduce buried conduits through which air circulates (study local wind direction)
Introduce cloister-type patios.
|Ventilate the building in the summer at night.
Bioclimatic houses: Glazed gallery
The glazed gallery tries to achieve a partially or fully glazed closed space located in one or several vertical walls of the building, normally on any façade except the one facing North.
We consider a closed volume to be one whose external air intakes do not cause an exchange of internal air of more than 5 changes/hour.
On the other hand, we have considered the attached greenhouse as a glazed porch inside the building whose coverage is the same as this one. These spaces would have greater integration in the building and therefore would be less exposed. These glazed areas are usually passable spaces and can also be permanent. Therefore, its design should be thinking for the future use that it is intended to provide.
Both one and the other are used to get free solar energy through the greenhouse effect. As we all know, this physical phenomenon consists of the heating of the glass by the sun.
Glass is a medium denser than air. Therefore, the lower energy photons are reflected by the first surface, while the higher energy ones pass through it at a greater angle. The photons that manage to enter the glass travel at an angle that depends on their frequency (colour) so that if we lived inside the glass, we could see a rainbow.
Upon reaching the second surface of the crystal, the angles are corrected and the rainbow effect is eliminated, all the photons travel again with the same angle and white light is seen again. As a result, when radiation passes through glass, it looks the same as before it went through, but it is missing low-energy radiation that has not been able to pass through. In this sense, it behaves like a low-frequency filter.
If there is heat transmission by convection. It is convenient that the openings are strategically placed. It is a good solution to put holes in the upper part of the walls so that the warm air passes into the living spaces. and others located in the lower part so that the cold air circulates towards the gallery to warm up. However, the possibility of closing these openings in summer must be foreseen.
In order to be able to obtain the best performance from our glazed areas, we must introduce some form of sun protection because in summer it may not be convenient to obtain more heat in our home, so we should introduce sun protection that could be:
- Spanning Gallery
- Gallery with an awning
- Gallery with adjustable horizontal slats
As we have previously mentioned, these sun protections would be much more effective, especially the adjustable slats and awnings, if we could automate and connect the moving parts of these protectors to light and heat sensors so that they can automatically achieve sun protection related to the instructions. to be introduced.
Reasons to have an energy-efficient house
And now let’s review the reasons to make our house an energy-efficient one.
When buying or building a home, the most common concerns tend to be location, design, price… While all of these concerns are valid and necessary, how many of us think of energy efficiency features as the deciding factor? And it is that we often overlook the considerations of an energy-efficient house in the decisions to purchase a house, but here are some of the reasons why we should make them a priority:
Protect your vision
Low-energy homes are often equipped with efficient lighting systems, which not only help lower our bills but are also better for our vision and health. Efficient lighting systems do not contain mercury and are therefore safer for the home. They also produce less heat than conventional lights.
Today, the most efficient lamps are energy-saving bulbs, which consume 80% less energy to produce the same amount of light as traditional bulbs. We must remember that if we use this type of light bulb, we must deposit them at the appropriate collection points when they stop working. Also, LED bulbs, are characterized by a life of 70,000 hours, almost 50 years of life. They do not contain any type of toxic element.
According to the Gas Natural Fenosa Foundation, with efficient use of lighting we could save 26.2% per year (approximately 340 million euros per year) in all Spanish homes, just by using low-consumption light bulbs -from 11W to 15W- or LED bulbs -which in recent years have experienced a clear increase-. The good condition of the lamps is also relevant since you can avoid spending up to 20% on lighting.
With some lighting regulation systems, we can save up to 50% on our bills. Some of the most efficient lighting systems are presence detectors, which are only activated when they detect the presence of people and turn off when they leave the room using infrared rays that detect movement; The photoelectric cells are activated according to the levels of natural light, very effective outdoors in all types of homes. For rooms such as toilets or bathrooms, we can use timer switches, which we can program for a certain time, after the chosen time, it will turn off immediately.
A safe bet for investment
If you are considering renting or selling your home, an energy-efficient home is future-proof. We should never shudder at the thought of higher electricity rates. If we are buying houses for investment, efficient houses are the ones that will have the highest resale value. Efficiency saves money and practice and commitment to these efficient systems often help you get the most out of your purchase.
An efficient home will help us save energy and therefore pay less on our bills, which is why it is a very remarkable point for the future sale of the home, highlighting all the features, appliances, systems and ultimately, all the elements that will help us save energy and money.
Modifying what is built costs more
If we buy a home that does not consume energy and decide to convert it to an efficient home later, we may have to invest a huge budget. Also, the features will be limited to what can be adapted in the house. Observations such as orientation are impossible to change in a home, and if it is built with bricks that absorb heat, we can only make it a little more efficient if we invest more in thermal insulation.
Eco friendly. An energy-efficient house
The more energy we consume, the more harmful emissions to our environment are produced. Obviously, if we live in an energy-efficient home, we will consume less energy and electricity. This benefits the environment as our house indirectly releases fewer carbon emissions that contribute to pollution and climate change.
In Spain, there are different institutions involved in the fight against climate change, such as the Spanish Office for Climate Change and the National Climate Council, but it is increasingly necessary to implement all the measures that help us take care of our great battered environment with small changes in our consumption and execution habits.
An energy-efficient home often has a lower indoor temperature compared to a conventional one. This is because energy-efficient houses are built with materials that make it difficult for heat to enter. Insulating materials for ceilings and walls, and reflective paint, among others, protect our home from heat and help maintain a more comfortable interior temperature and, at the same time, save on electricity bills.
The roof of our house is a fundamental element considering energy efficiency. In vertical buildings, we can insulate and soundproof the ceilings to protect them acoustically and thermally. We must take into account the climatic conditions of the area to be able to choose the most suitable roof (double slope roof, with a broken roof, 1 slope…) The use of slate is very common in cold areas and with recurrent rainfall.
In humid areas with moderate rainfall, we recommend an increasingly recurrent resource: roofs with vegetation and even small shrubs planted on them. Green roof covers favour natural protection against solar radiation and a level of waterproofing that is incomparable to that obtained with industrial materials.
This catalogue shows us the most studied plants for use in green roofs with their most relevant characteristics. The results presented in the publication correspond to the data obtained from the monitoring of 3 green roofs in the City of Buenos Aires and its surroundings. It was carried out for two years with frequent visits, where the mortality of the plants and the behaviour in terms of growth, health and phenology – a science that studies the relationship between climatic factors and the cycles of living beings – were mainly evaluated.
In all cases, the cover was made up of a mixture of commercial Sedum for green roofs of European origin, and a percentage of native species.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), by using less energy for cooling and lighting and choosing 5-star energy-efficient appliances, a home can save 20% annually on bills.
During the seven or eight years that a family lives in an energy-efficient home, we can save thousands of euros in energy costs. We have named some lighting elements that can help us save energy, but we must also take into account the issue of energy efficiency when we buy appliances.
All of them have an energy label that allows consumers to know the energy efficiency of the products they use. The energy label, used on household appliances, lighting equipment and passenger cars, informs us about their consumption, performance, capacities, noise, etc.
These labels can be very helpful when deciding between one model or another. Many times, the price of an appliance may not be as important as the consumption it will make during its useful life, since low consumption can amortize in a short time the higher price that is usually associated with the most efficient appliances. There are 7 energy classes that go from the letter A (Most efficient) to the letter G (Less efficient) depending on the electrical consumption.
In Spain, 5 years after the entry into force of the Royal Decree on Energy Certification of buildings, the “E” rating is the most frequent in most autonomous communities, according to data from Certicalia. The A and B cases have been very specific, with only 4 cases of A between Madrid and Catalonia and 36 cases of B between Aragon, Catalonia, Madrid, Galicia and Andalusia.
Learn more about our architecture studio: Pacheco & Asociados Arquitectos. We have been in the architecture and decoration sector for more than 25 years. We offer our services both nationally and internationally. Our team of architects and other professionals always manage to design the specifications, needs and wishes of the clients.
Another aspect to take into account is whether our home is sustainable home.
It is one thing to have an efficient home and another to have a sustainable home. Sustainability has become an integral aspect of contemporary architectural design in order to reduce environmental impact and increase human comfort. Due to the pressing concern for climate change, there are already many countries that regulate building codes to adapt them based on energy efficiency and water management. This allows today’s architects to conserve resources and materials and build efficient homes that work with their natural surroundings rather than against them.
So, what makes a building sustainable? Simply put, it’s one that has minimal environmental impact while meeting the diverse needs of its occupants. Sustainable buildings minimize environmental impact through energy and water efficiency methods, the use of sustainable materials, and landscaping that takes into account the site’s biodiversity and existing natural features.
Efficient homes: Energy
One of the main pillars of sustainable architecture and construction is the use of renewable energy as the building’s main source of energy. In Spain, we have the advantage of having many energy companies that invest their money, time and effort in the generation of clean and renewable energy, as is the case with Endesa.
Only in Spain, the company Endesa has 224 renewable energy generation plants including biomass, wind energy, hydroelectric energy and solar energy. This means that environmentally conscious customers can access electricity rates that use renewable electricity as the only source of energy, such as Tempo Solar.
Customers who live in areas where the sun shines many hours a day, such as Cartagena (Murcia) or Torrente (Valencia) will be able to benefit from this Endesa rate and the installation of photovoltaic panels in their homes.
On the other hand, design elements such as double-glazed windows for thermal insulation, roof vents that allow hot air to escape, window shading, a light-coloured roof to reflect heat, and a hot water heater located as close as possible to areas where hot water is needed can improve the energy efficiency of a building.
Efficient homes: Water
Hot water consumes about 33% of the average household energy but greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 80% with an efficient hot water system, which can be a solar hot water system, hot water with an electric heat pump or a gas hot water system. To be considered sustainable, showers must be AAA rated, meaning they produce nine litres of water per minute.
Efficient homes: Materials
Building a sustainable building means using the right materials in the most efficient way possible. This could mean using recycled materials, avoiding on-site construction waste, and creating items such as runoff into waterways.
Efficient Homes: Landscaping and Site Impact
Effective gardening involves working with the natural surroundings of a building, rather than against them, for example, conserving existing vegetation, creating a garden in a way that requires minimal maintenance and water, and an environment that allows it to flourish local plants and wild fauna and flora.
The foundations of sustainable architecture create energy-efficient homes, which translates into significant savings on energy bills, as indicated in the article previously published in Pacheco & Arquitectos. If you want us to help you create your future sustainable home, don’t Feel free to contact our architects in Murcia.
The next step would be to make housing sustainable and efficient.
The architecture sector is undergoing an evolution with new sustainable and efficient designs that help to self-manage.
Although traditionally the construction sector has been one of those that have had the most weight in pollution, more and more professionals are determined to innovate within the sector and offer sustainable and efficient constructions.
To do this, contemporary architecture is increasingly committed to constructions in which sustainable materials are used that are committed to self-management with the aim of reducing the cost of maintenance and the time that their owners dedicate to managing the home.
Some of the concepts that are taken into account today to create a sustainable building are:
• In the first place, the materials with which a building is constructed will be decisive for the efficiency of the home. Like its thermal and acoustic insulation. On the other hand, the distribution of spaces will be key to playing with light and the temperature of the home.
• Review the interior decoration materials with which the building is built.
• Review energy efficiency through the Energy Efficiency Bulletin.
How to get an efficient home?
To achieve an efficient home, both technical and decorative aspects must be taken into account that will directly influence the efficiency and sustainability of the home. As well as consumption habits.
First of all, it is important to take into account the electricity and gas rate that the user has contracted, since in many cases, contracting a rate that does not meet the basic needs of the home can increase the electricity bill considerably. For example: If at home they consume more at night, perhaps one of the rates that best suit the needs of users is the one that offers hourly discrimination.
To review your electricity rate, you must take into account some basic aspects, such as:
• The size, the square meters of the home.
• The number of people who live in the house and the routines they follow.
• How many heavy-duty household appliances are there in the home and how many of these perform a phantom consumption (those that despite appearing to be turned off if they are still connected to the general current, a linear energy consumption given that they are blacked out, pause but continue to consume a percentage of energy ), as well as how many have the energy efficiency label.
• Finally, the type of electricity and gas installation in the home.
To make the rate change, the user must be clear that they will have to be the owner of the supplies to have full control of the energy. To make the change of ownership of electricity and water, you must provide a series of documents. Before making the change of electricity owner, the user must know that it is a free process and that it can take between 15 and 20 business days.
From our architecture studio Pacheco & Arquitectos, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are part of our values, we believe that they are not an option but an obligation.
How to make your house more ecological.
In these times, we are increasingly aware of our environmental responsibility, but beyond that, the tendency to choose a respectful environment and avoid using materials that may affect our well-being and health is a reality that is here to stay.
• It is very important for us to take full advantage of the climate in our home so that we are clear that the orientation of our home will affect the interior temperature. The west orientation of our house will make it absorb all the heat from the outside in summer since the sun will fall directly during the hottest hours, that is, from noon to sunset. A bioclimatic home (that takes advantage of the climate) can reduce energy consumption by up to 70%
• SIPs structural insulating panels are currently the most widely used construction material in Northern Europe, the United States and Canada. They are an ideal solution given their high performance on floors, ceilings and interior and exterior partitions. Their self-supporting and insulation capacity, both thermal and acoustic (depending on their thickness) makes them the best lightweight construction system on the market.
• It is really important that we use sustainable construction materials, which can be reused or recycled. In this article, we tell you all the keys to sustainable construction materials. Some examples are natural insulators that are biodegradable and recyclable such as cellulose, hemp, wood fibre insulation boards, wood wool, and linen. These materials are free of additives and harmful substances. You should also have 100% recyclable pipes for water supply such as cross-linked polyethene and polypropylene pipes.
And the ultimate Guide to Choosing Sustainable Building Materials
• You can make your house more ecological by buying furniture that does not contain chemical products. We must avoid polluting products such as formaldehyde, which is highly volatile and very flammable, as heavy metals and dyes. A separate chapter deserves some toxic paints and varnishes that sometimes cover the wood. Until not long ago it was frequent that they could contain lead, today less likely. But they can still contain aggressive solvents, so we must try to find furniture without these compounds since today it is not difficult to achieve that balance between aesthetics and sustainability.
• Regardless of the country or city you live in, you will make your home more comfortable if you consume less energy to activate heating and cooling. This can be achieved thanks to proper insulation. A well-insulated home reduces the circulation of heat, so it uses less energy to heat it in winter or keep it cool in summer. Some effective and ecological insulators are:
1. Cellulose: It is achieved with recycled newspaper fibres mixed with boron salts. This material prevents any condensation on the interior walls of our home as it is a breathable material with excellent fire resistance behaviour.
2. Rock wool: It is obtained by heating basaltic, volcanic and mineral rocks. They avoid any condensation on the interior walls, as it is also breathable.
3. Mineral wool: By heating the recycled glass, a series of threads or fibres are obtained that are linked to providing mineral wool. They can largely prevent condensation, as there are very small air particles in their composition.
4. Polystyrene beads with graphite (EPS): Through a styrene polymerization process, it is isolated by adding graphite beads.
5. White mineral wool: Porous and soft to the touch, without generating dust, with excellent fire resistance behaviour, it is also used as acoustic insulation.
6. Granulated cork: It is a type of insulation that manages to obtain the temperature naturally, forming tiny cork granules with excellent fire resistance behaviour.
7. Wood fibre: These filaments of natural wood fibres are processed in the factory with boron salts to give them fire retardant, insecticidal and antifungal properties. It provides us with thermal comfort with great thermal capacity.
• You will save energy and money with energy-efficient appliances. To this day, all electrical appliances have an energy label, which informs us about their consumption, performance, capacities, noise, etc. These labels can be very helpful when deciding between one model or another. Many times, the price of an appliance may not be as important as the consumption it will make during its useful life, since low consumption can amortize in a short time the higher price that is usually associated with the most efficient appliances. There are 7 energy classes that go from the letter A (Most efficient) to the letter G (Less efficient) depending on the electrical consumption.
• Air conditioning comprises three fundamental factors today: ventilation, heating, or winter air conditioning, and refrigeration or summer air conditioning. Knowing this concept, we can now talk about the concept of air conditioning, in English Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning, or better known by its acronym HVAC, an expression in which three separate concepts appear: ventilation and heating on the one hand and air conditioning on the other. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system of any building is like the respiratory system of a human being: it controls the movement, quality and temperature of the air to ventilate, heat and cool the organism. Well-designed HVAC systems, passive filters, insulation, and gravity make the system more effective and efficient. New conservation practices and alternative energy systems are being designed to improve efficiency.
• Solar energy can help us save a significant amount of money. We can use sunlight to fly an aeroplane or simply charge a battery, that’s how powerful it is. We will save energy and at the same time, we will help the environment to heal the wounds that we have caused it for so long. In our blog, we have written numerous articles on energy efficiency, solar panels, and the situation of electricity companies in Spain…
Saving on your electricity bills
• It’s hard to believe that there are those who are still unaware of the many and varied benefits of LED lighting. On the one hand, LEDs are an eco-friendly way of lighting for several reasons:
1. They reduce energy consumption by up to 80%, which means a saving of resources that is not negligible.
2. Its lifespan is much longer than traditional halogen lights, LED can last about 50,000 hours, so we need to change less frequently.
3. In addition, they are less polluting because LED lights do not contain mercury like fluorescent lamps, and they are very safe elements that considerably reduce the risk of domestic accidents compared to other lighting technologies. And all without forgetting another great advantage that is the quality of light, clear and bright.
From Pacheco Architects we will be delighted to answer any questions, do not hesitate to contact our architecture studio in Murcia.