Monday, August 10, 2009

--NPR Discusses "Greening" Your Home

Today on NPR's All Things Considered, techniques to "Green" your home were discussed. The most important tidbit? The fact that the housing market is fairly evenly split between those who want hyper-green homes, and those who want the energy-savings of green home-building, but nothing to do with the politics of "green". This means that data is coming forward to support precisely the supposition forwarded by this blog: people like the benefits of green, but they do not want to be identified with the "treehugging" sub-culture.

Where, then, is the compromise to satisfy the two? New Regionalism supports the construction of traditionally-designed homes that live in harmony with their environment. Such homes garner the benefits of green innovation, but maintain the charm of traditional architecture.

Such is the market for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

--From TreeHugger, a "Beehive House" to Beat the Desert Heat

When you live in Syria and must suffer through hot and rainy summers, what do you use to make life livable? A few thousand years of architectural evolution suggests that you should built a "Beehive House."

Mud-brick construction is not a foreign technology by any means. We're familiar with the pueblos of the American southwest and similarly-designed structures across the globe. But what makes these Syrian structures unique is their relationship to their particular climate. Though exceedingly hot, rain is not as absent in this environment. Were these structures to feature the flat roofs seen on pueblos, the mud would absorb the water and crumble. The beehive shape, then, serves two purposes.

First, the cone literally funnels hot air out of the structure. The thick mud also manages to shade the space within and resist absorbing heat that would be emitted during the day. Though air temperatures in the area range from 60 degrees at night to 140 degrees during the day, the interior of these structures remains a cool 75 to 85 degrees, largely because only enough heat is absorbed to make a difference at night. (If my air conditioner is off all day, the temperature in my house sores to 95 degrees by noon--and 95 is the average summer temp here!)

The cone also serves to shed water rapidly down the sides of the structure, shielding the delicate building materials from the damaging effects of saturation.

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As an aside, I can think of only one improvement to the design. Were the entire structure surrounded by a shading "porch," the air drawn into the beehive by convection would have been pre-cooled during the day. The limited availability of wood or a flat roofing material makes this improvement impossible in practice, but nevertheless desirable in theory. A quick sketch of my design is below.
This is yet another example of how vernacular architecture has evolved to fit its environment, a lesson we need to keep in mind when attempting to make out own homes as energy efficient as possible.