Passive Design Solutions

April 4th, 2013 – Seminar 10

Group Members:
Kent Mundle, Dale Wiebe, Caitlin Brock, Kalika Hoogstraten, Chelsea Alecci, Neda Uddin, Tyler Yakichuk, Leanza Barra, Jessica Martin, Andy Steingrimsdottir

‘Building a Green Home.” Pg 147-202

The article talks about how we disregard our homes as a “machines for living” as Le Corbusier has suggested, and instead focus on individual components to ease our lifestyles. This in turn has created negative outcomes, causing buildings to account for 50% of total energy consumption in the United States and produces more greenhouse gas emissions then vehicles. The solution is to begin to turn to passive design alternatives, using natural resources such as the sun and wind to create net-zero structures.
It begins to discuss how to incorporate passive systems as components, just as we typically treat our homes. Systems that can be integrated include trees for natural shading techniques as well as insulation and protection from UV exposure, orientation of the home along with open concept windows to adhere to natural ventilation, insulation to capture sunlight and heat as well as thermal mass to use exposed surfaces to absorb the heat in daytime and radiate it back at night time or during low temperatures, and green roofs that absorb rainwater and provide extra space for planting edible and native vegetation.
The article then focuses on passive techniques not as components but how it can be integrated to the home as an entirety. Strategies include pre-fabricated homes for better efficiency, smart home technology used to monitor and reduce the environmental impact it creates (like shutting off electronics when not in use, remote windows to allow natural radiant heat as well as ventilation and so on), creating green homes with the longevity to last through conditions that typical homes are designed to, and higher density of the home so that its not occupying as much land/ space while still maintaining functionality for the inhabitants.

Ip, Kennethm and Andrew Miller. “Thermal Behaviour of an Earth-Sheltered Autonomous Building – The Brighton Earthship.” Elsevier Ltd: 2009.

The article focuses on Earthships, an earth sheltered construction alternative to typical heavy weight construction. The concept behind these structures operate on a self-sufficient basis composed largely out of recycled and reclaimed materials. The goal of theses structures is to achieve net-zero production, which does not cost more in the long run. As these structure are prone to climate conditions. it uses a concept known as thermal store, a horizontal distribution that is used to properly adjust thermal temperatures during the summer and winter conditions and mitigate emissions as a result. These earthships contradict typical homes through construction materials and processes as they do not include any kind of foundation, use load-bearing construction for the walls with the integration of recycled materials, and usually plastic or metal roofing.

Proposed Discussion:

Would you ever live in one of these homes (earthships)? Why or why not?

If you were to live in one, would you want it in an urban or rural environment?

If you were to commission a passive house such as this, would you choose:
1). A Prefabricated passive house?
2). Site specific passive house?

Some of the more popular design strategies include: passive heating/ cooling, solar energy, efficient spatial planning, lighting, rain, water harvesting, envelope sealing, and or vegetation.
Which one of these passive house designs would work best/ least in Winnipeg?

Could Passive House development work at all in Winnipeg?

After a term of learning about Ecology and Design, have you had any changes in your stance on design or how you envision yourself designing in the future?

Personal Reflection Generated from Group Discussion:
I think these types of homes are innovative and clever but I personally would never live in one. Based on the examples that this seminar has shown us, they seem more of shelter or a hut then a home itself. With that being said, as a designer I plan on doing a lot of my work at home and obviously need specific conditions to do so. As these types of homes are dictated by surrounding weather and climate conditions I think they could work as a structure to reside and sleep in but not much else to be honest.
If I was to live in one, I think I would want it to be rural solely because it really has no place in the urban fabric. I think that there is an association with these kinds of homes to be in open, vegetated space, not surrounded by highrise buildings, concrete and noise. Especially because of the fact that these structure are dictated by weather and its surroundings and are open concept to allow passive designs, if it were to be placed in urban setting I think it would defeat the purpose of what the homes is trying to achieve as they would be noisy to live in and in-efficient.
As Todd had mentioned in class, If you are to live in a earthship it has to be site specific. The concept relies on surrounding conditions and its level of efficiency is dictated on it so no matter what you must pertain to a site specific design. Whether you want it to be pre-fabricated or not is up to you but personally I don’t would never want that kind of home in the first place so if I was to have one mine as well go the extra step and make it pre-fab. Going to be miserable regardless.
I think because Winnipeg has such unpredictable weather patterns, envelope sealing and insulation would be pretty much the only option for passive design strategies. As mentioned, passive design strategies are dependent on climate and weathering conditions. Winnipeg’s is insane. So it would need an innovative envelope sealing strategies to protect you from hot and cold conditions otherwise your living in a giant refrigerator freezer. With this being said, I don’t think passive house development should be integrated into Winnipeg.

In summary of the class, I feel that its completely necessary to incorporate some strategies in all designs to decrease global warming and achieve sustainability. To the level or degree that we should dictate a building towards sustainability I don’t really know.
One interesting notion that Matt had brought up when he answered this question is that it made him not excited to be part of the design community based on the assumption that every designer is educated and aware of our present condition, yet they continue to ignore the idea of incorporating sustainable solutions within their designs. To me, in order to define architecture it has come to point that sustainability must one of the terms that is used when describing it. So I have to say, I agree with Matt in the sense that I don’t agree with how designer continue to approach architecture, but at the same time it leaves it open to us to establish innovative concepts and ideas to better the world.

Photo 1:
Summer Climate Earthship
Rong. Earthship Visitor Ceter. Photograph. Flickr. September 1st, 2008.

Photo 2:
Winter Climate Earthship
damonthomaskiley. earthship. photograph. flickr. December 20th, 2007.


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