Solar is one of the main environmental drivers for building form. The sun’s position is accurately known throughout the year which means the form can respond in a very precise manner to building needs such as daylight, passive solar gains in winter and solar shading in summer.
The provision of good solar amenity can help lift an occupant’s perception of an entire scheme and simulation tools can predict where sun and shadows will fall throughout each day and across the seasons.
The simulation below quantifies the ability of a large dynamic solar shading device to reduce summertime solar exposure, helping make better use of large areas of the public realm.
Knowledge of the local wind conditions can shape the design of a building. For example, it can passively help supply fresh air as well as help meet summertime cooling needs. Yet it is rarely used effectively because the ability of a building to harness the wind is highly dependent on its form.
Wind is more unpredictable than solar but nonetheless there are tools available to create simulation wind flow models, as shown in the image below, in order to reveal the wind landscape and drive design.
Wind is also a driver for pedestrian comfort. This can involve taking into account the key prevailing wind directions to avoid unwanted acceleration and downdraughts from tall facades. Massing decisions can create sheltered and highly desirable spaces, especially when combined with solar amenity
3. Renewable Energy
Renewable energy can often provide a substantial proportion of local energy requirements. However, the potential impact of renewable energy generation depends on the early strategic input. This is because the main renewable technologies of solar PV, solar thermal, wind energy and geothermal are highly form dependent.
For example, the form of a building can maximise the amount of unshaded area for solar PV panels. In the case of solar thermal, the building form can allow panels to be mounted at a relatively steep angle to optimise their performance and avoid overheating in peak summer. This also means that more hot water can be generated earlier in the year as well as improving self-cleaning via rainfall.
4. Night Cooling
Night cooling is a highly effective passive means of reducing or eliminating the need for active cooling. It is an extension of wind design considerations, involving both form and fenestration. However, it is also involves developing a strategy for thermal mass distribution, as effective night cooling requires both night time airflow and a means to store coolth for the next day.
In the example below, our strategy involved creating three heavy-weight thermal-store stair cores which act as night time ‘coolth batteries’. A Dynamic Thermal Model was used to quantify the benefits following standards such as TM59 for the residential area and TM52 for commercial spaces.
5. Evaporative Cooling
Passive evaporative cooling can provide very low cost and low carbon cooling. However, it is rarely used because the building form and servicing strategy have several design requirements in order for this strategy to work effectively. For example, the evaporation zone has a certain space requirement. Also, evaporative-cooled space needs to be separated from actively-cooled spaces. The illustration in section 7, shows how we integrated evaporative cooling into the design of a pavilion.
6. Demand Side Response (DSR)
Buildings can be designed to take advantage of Demand Side Response (DSR) schemes arising from financial incentive provided by National Grid to control frequency and voltage. Buildings that have been designed to accommodate DSR can establish new income streams for their owners whilst allowing National Grid to save carbon by avoiding the use of dedicated standby generators which run on fossil fuel and have poor efficiencies relative to standard fossil fuel power stations.
Again, early strategic decisions are required to make this possible as the building form has a large influence on whether or not it can be run without active systems for a given period of time in order to qualify for DSR schemes.
7. Environmental Synergies
Building form ideally is designed to provide multiple functions and benefits. In the example of the design for the UK Pavilion for the Dubai Expo, shown below, the humble lift shaft was transformed into a central feature. The eight lift shafts, besides vertical transportation, each became:
- Daylight providers: each glass lift shaft created striking high-level focal glows drawing the eye up to the reflective ‘infinity’ ceiling.
- Structural supports: the shafts supported the roof structure removing the need for additional support allowing for a clean, open space and lightweight, non-structural feature-façade.
- Free coolth provision: the misting at the top of the lift shafts provides free evaporative cooling for visitors ascending to the top level.
- A unique visitor experience: the misting results in dense water droplet cloud at the top of the lift shaft. The creates an extraordinary experience for visitors as they slowly rise in the lifts up into the cloud.
- External dynamism: the organic rise and fall of the brightly clouds in each of the eight lift shafts, resulting from the evaporation and remisting as visitors and dry air entered the lift, gave the whole Great Ocean Hall a life-like dynamism.
- A riser: the lifts shaft was also designed to serve a practical function and connect services from the top floor to the ground floor as well as housing the façade light projection equipment which helped to create the ocean experience.
Please get in touch if you would like to know more or if you have a new scheme and would like some early-stage concept input: firstname.lastname@example.org