My Ssec Capstone Project Environmental cautiousness

Environmental cautiousness

Environmental cautiousness, assessment of positive and negative influences in architecture, has become strongly embedded in the design process, with sustainability becoming integral to the decision making. While the discussion about the environmental approach in architectural design become vivid towards the end of 20th century. Different approaches trying to improve the environmental performance were developed over the years, unfortunately, without too many practical applications of the fundings.

In this context, seems important to try to focus on establishing connections between architecture and constantly growing concern about its influence on the environment, by investigating the development of environmentally friendly architecture in parallel to the development of the concept of environmentalism itself.

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The Environmentalism is a very wide concept, influenced by scientific, ethical and political ideologies.  Sustainability as an idea was introduced in Blueprint for Survival (1972) by Edward Goldsmith, and become more understood after the publication of Our Common Future in 1987. The meaning of the world as well transform, evolve from; able to exploited indefinitely without degradation of the source to good for the environment.

The word ecology, first time used by Ernest Haeckel in 1878 (Pope, Wheal, Appleton, 1991) comes from Greek. While the ideology develop as a study of relations within nature, as nothing lives in isolation, to create understanding that all elements are integral to achieve the perfect balance. Also trying to understand the human-made influence of the fast-growing population, pollution and overuse of natural resources that have an exponential harmful influence on the rest of the system.

Attempts of defining styles, theories have always been a strategy strongly attached to the architectural profession. Attempts to capture patterns is visible especially form the beginning of Neo classical period, with the very strong interest in tensions between the styles. In the 19th country in differences between Classical and Gothic, and then in the 20th century between Modernism and Post modernism, encouraging the profession to name, organise the different design approaches. Putting that in the context of environmental revolution, Van Der Ryn and Cowan (1996) present belief that architectural profession had no environmental understanding prior 1970’s, but there is a hand full of buildings that have been constructed with reflection on the man-made influence and its place within the ecological system pre 20th century environmental revolution. There is an agreement between such the authorities like Olgyay(1963), Hagan(2001) or Hawkes(1996) that the earliest evidence of taking under consideration the influence the buildings may have on the environment is apparent in Vitruvius (Figure 1: Vitruvius concept visualisation), whom by taking under consternation the elements like a climate, design and most importantly comfort of the user, created simplify, yet essential description of the fundamental considerations, requirements for architectural design.

Vernacular techniques of construction allowed to create the building, by design, responsive to its surrounding, mainly by a great understanding of seasonal changes of the site,and then the appropriate use of locally sourced materials, what makes vernacular architecture naturally environmentally aware, friendly. The economic development strongly influenced the tendency to follow vernacular approach, as the main motivation for the new builds became the current fashion, as the result the material choices become more detached form its context and sourced from further and further away. The design itself, following the new trends,  became less appropriate for the local climate, by unnecessary overloading the structure just to follow the new aesthetic. The redevelopment of Vernacular methods in many developed societies had an interesting influence on architectural design. Susannah Hagan (2001) suggests that there is a division between the followers of the ideology of vernacular design. She describes them as revivalists, anti-industrial and pro-craft community, and the environmentalists trying to embrace natural development for passive, environment conscious design. Unfortunately, in some cases this approach seemed to be overlooked as patronising or even as culturally determining.

Colonial heritage of Western architects left its footprint ,in often forced development, of new design proposals as well as construction technologies to help to cope witch the significantly different climate of foreign countries (Lutyens work in India).The similarities are visible also in the development of the New Wold architecture of the time. Banham (1984) advocates that the significant factor of development of Art Nouveau around 1980 ‘s was the introduction of internal electric lighting, while Ruskin and Morris in they work, describes possible dangers of industrialisation. In this context, the early examples of environmentalism had a strong relationship with the development of Organicist and Arts and Crafts architecture in relation to Romantic Movement (Pepper, 1984).

Another example of study relations between man’s needs and the nature, in this cases not exactly conscious, strongly focused on man’s wellbeing and comfort, was investigate by Le Corbusier itself (Figure 5). Whose concepts have been used, reused and redeveloped by many others, with big names like Olgyay (1963, Figure 4) or Vale (1991, 1996). While Hagen(2001) and Slessor(1997) suggested that the only connection between Environmentalism and Modernism is a building influence on climate to provide comfort. On the other hand, Banham argues there is a paradox in link between environmental friendly architecture and Modernism, as some of the objectives of Modernists seems to eradicate inefficiencies of vernacular architecture influences. He also challenges the ideology of the schools like Bauhaus, presenting concern that functionalists schools seemed to forget that the “human concepts of environmental quality” developed priory 1914.
Interestingly, Olgyay (1963, Figure 2) similarly to Vitruvius, does not elaborate on the aesthetic side of the design, moving the focus towards the importance of the strong connection between the technology and good functional design. Following Olgyay’s thought process, Givoni (1969) presents a more scientific outlook on the issues of comfort and climate, still with no suggestion how to achieve an aesthetically pleasing design by taking an inspiration from the technological development of the project. 

The approach towards environmentally conscious design changed in face of the oil crises in 1970’s. As the energy required to run a building, in general, had increased drastically, mainly by the introduction of building services, causing the new ideas of creating passive sources of energy to emerge. The main proposals defining the new eco friendly solutions of the time, were introduction of passive ventilation and solar power. As much more easily adaptable, these concepts made a huge impact on a housing design of the time. The new concept of low energy buildings was apparent, unfortunately not on the bigger scale, as not many local authorities presented any interest in the new technologies, mainly caused by luck of understanding of the positive implication of applying the use of passive energy sources. Although, within a short period of time,there is a significant change in therms of general approach to the environmental design.
Givoni (1969) acknowledges this significant lift between the human relationship with nature in the 2nd edition of his book published only a few years later.

The new architecture was a great way to encourage modern lifestyle. In the Case Study House study, published in Arts and Architecture(19945-1966), series of modern buildings was presented to demonstrate the way new construction methods and materials could better the quality of life(Entenza,1945; McCoy, 1962; Macy,2003) The new iconic houses, forced a new way of thinking about the space with its simple form, flat roof, open plan design and completely new approach to construction and materiality of the built. The ideas inspired people to start a conversation about the possibilities the technical development could have on people lives, “good life”(Banham, 1989; Smithson,2005; Gonzalez, 2013)

The other concept developed at the time was an attempt on popularisation of passive energy systems, expanding an idea of solar energy. This types of buildings were designed to maximise absorption of sun light by not only modern materials but also by use of the large windows or open plan spaces(Figure 7: The MIT Solar House). Many architects showed huge interest in the thermal proprieties of materials. In article “Power from the Sun” author present more direct approach trying to explain the potential of solar energy(Figure 8: Max Gschwind, Solar Energy: A Global View). Another great representation of the new concept of passive energy use was the Antonio Petruccelli drawing (Figure 6: A Not So Utopian Future), presented as a diagram exploring all the possibilities of saving energy in a household, encouraging the different way of thinking. Presenting the possibilities of the environmental approach to architecture, creating the new, better relation of “man and environment”.

Looking at this development, Banham (1984) introduced a categorisation based on the environmental approach to the design, dividing different types of buildings into four categories: Conservative, Selective, Regenerative and Exclusive. The first one, conservative mode, by design meant to protect from the external environment by crating thermal comfort. The Selective role was to eliminate all the undesired conditions by crating shades, windows as well as ventilation devices it also it always exist as a combination with the conservative mode. The strong feeling agenist overuse of power, especially in 60’s and 70’s, was caused by the growing understanding of danger related to pollution, potential exhaustion of natural resourced placed presented in the spot light of growing energy cost. The solution in his opinion was passive solar energy. The movement was interested in developing ways of using not well explored at the time solar power, although he saw the some elements of the movement as a little bit extreme.
Banham’ s last mode Exclusive was not related to environment and is typical for highly serviced construction as the main concept of the mode was extreme separation external condition from internal.

Another authority, Hawkes (1996) relates to previous concepts presented by Olgyay, by introducing a diagram of relations between architecture, technology, biology, and lastly climatology, by following Banham’s modular classification of building types, presented as exclusive, selective and pragmatic.

Where pragmatic doesn’t take into account environmental approach at all, while exclusive is more concerned about design the Banham’s model yet still concept it terms of energy use stays the same. Lastly, the Selective mode is combination of the first three Banham’s modes – Regenerative, selective and conservative.

Later on the environmental architecture has been divided to two subcategories, both in relation to O’Riordan’s Ecocentric and Technocentric ideologies. One described as the voice of social responsibility for the environment and another as materialistic approach created around personal benefits taken from lower cost of energy and materials. Around the same time Lloyd Jones(1998) presents the concept of two contrasting environmental architectural approaches, Techno and Cultural-fixes.

Van der Ryn and Cowan (1996) present an idea that a specialised aspects of understanding of the location, nature, biodiversity of the site, as well vernacular approach and its manifestation trough the design is extremely important. Later on, developed as a concept based on importance of observation of nature and transition this knowledge to create better, new construction solutions(Kilbert 2002). They also present an opinion that by alienation from nature people are no longer understand the nature around them and to redevelop this connection they input in terms of architecture has to be created as a symbiotic relation with its surrounding, were building is a representation of the system, was born in opposition to Biomorphism, were construction is representation of an organism.

Thomas and Fordham (1996), as technologists, suggest the need to take under consideration the elements like site planing, use of energy, daylight, solar exposer, used materials, as well as air quality and ventilation to provide comfortable and energy balanced building. Great examples of technological approach to architecture are work done by Foster, Hopkins, Rogers and Grimshaw (Slessor, 1997).

Further, Hagan(2001) tries to describe environmental architecture in stages of Symbiosis, Differentiation and lastly Visibility as well as differentiating the Cultural mode showcasing understanding of social aspects as well as vernacular approach and understanding of climate by use suitable data to developed dipper understanding of the place within the design. Both strongly responding to Vitruvian’s ideology through Hawkes and Olgyay reflection on Darwinian concept of determinism.

The aspect of Visibility was an idea of honesty in terms of correlation of aesthetics and environmental approach within the building design, supporting concept of architecture looked as a form of art. There is also an understating that even though all of the categories are present in work of many architects, usually on of them will be dominant. As they are integral part of the environmental design process. Using an example of designing symbiosis by achieving all the requirements by responding to local climate and than make an attempt to show are the efforts to the building user.
While Guy and Farmer (2001) organise the idea of environmentally informed architecture by presenting six subcategories to combine ecological approach with technical aspect.

Todays overlook at sustainability exist based on play of the balance of the elements of socio economic environmentalism, were the design solutions come form the balance of its the main points not determinism itself.

Attempts to organise the main stream of architects within the context of environmental architecture has been proven difficult as some of them showed flexibility to they approach with great names like Le Corbusier presenting his building concept as a machine contrasting with his work in India. Another examples, like Erskine have grown over the years, shifting the preferences form one concept to another. While others created they own ideologies, great example is Yeang, who introduced the concept called Bio climatic architecture, influenced by Olgyay geographical and climate protection principles, while enabled an experimentation and expression through use of new materials and construction forms. The main idea behind this type of architecture was significant reduction of energy use with simultaneous improvements in therms of user comfort. Yeang’s work is being used by Guy and Farmer(2001) as a representation of they Eco technic concept, Hagan (2001) sees it as differentiation of climate while Jencks (2002) describe him as Organitech.

Yeang’s early work presents lots of common points with of Givoni, Olgyay and Banham, placing him in less technological approach. Close study of his work shows less intent towards distinctive performance calculation and focus moved towards low technology solution like choice of appropriate materials, introducing planting or water features. Suggesting that environmental approach, Hagan’s Visibility concept, may dominate the other two strongly altering her theory of environmental design.

Jencks (2002) argue that there is no way to fully analyse architecture based on its connections with environment (perspective), as all writes, designers, architects created they own interpretation of the definitions, trying to express they ideas by presenting them in context their own work or their strong opinions about work of others in relation the discussed environmental issue. The heritage of environmental architecture is still apparent, although the concept itself never had an aspiration to become an aesthetic style itself, the different movements by overlapping strongly influence its look.

The similarity between environmentalism and its influence on architecture is especially visible in how the profession responded to the environmental concept and its growing importance.

In differ to environmentalism, architecture tries to create a connection between perceived beauty of the design and science, knowledge behind it. The profession is faced with responsibility to better communicate the understanding of the environmental problems, as well as present more and better solutions for the above.

There is no one solution for well designed environmentally conscious architecture, but it seems the implantation of the objectives of socioeconomic environmentalism create great guidelines allowing develop the best solution for the required situation.
Even though, the concept leaves a lot to interpretation, is very subjective, this flexibility allows to capture the individual character of the project by establishing accurate values. Most of the domain is challenged economically with environmental and social considerations second positioned.


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