When designing homes, architecture is constantly evolving and adapting to environmental conditions. Each climate has specific needs and requires different solutions in terms of comfort. Hot and humid environments require a very different design from cold and dry environments. Natural ventilation, for example, is very important in projects located in warm climates.
Natural ventilation can be provided in many ways, including cross-ventilation and the chimney effect. Choosing the best strategy and how to apply it is often related to other factors, such as the orientation of the sun, technological options, location of the openings, and many other aspects. However, when it comes to interior design, the approach is to assist or enhance natural ventilation, according to the already built environment. In this article, we have selected interior design projects with different functional programs that use natural ventilation techniques to maximize comfort.
One of the first solutions that come to mind is using screen blocks on the facades to allow not only ventilation but also natural lighting and some degree of visual permeability. In this project for the GAF House by Jacobsen Arquitetura, the upper floor is entirely enveloped by a wooden skin consisting of mobile and fixed panels structured in metallic frames. The development of this element required several prototypes and special opening systems. In addition to providing visual protection and allowing in natural light and ventilation, the wood panels are also used as room dividers in the office on the mezzanine, transferring a unique identity for the overall project.
This other project for the VY ANH House by Khuon Studio, uses a louver system that completely covers the facade and air bricks arranged in irregular patterns to ensure security, ventilation, and aesthetic emphasis. This system also acts as a trellis that will gradually be covered with vines, resulting in a greenery curtain that provides shade, privacy, and comfort based on cross-ventilation, creating unique spaces inside the house.
The Floating Nest House by atelier NgNg takes the relationship between the elements of the facade and the interior to another level. This home faced the challenge of fitting a vast program into a narrow and compact plot of land while also dealing with the local environmental conditions. The architects decided to omit partition walls within the house, using greenery and voids to separate functional spaces. The bamboo screen that runs the length of the facade allows for natural ventilation and also protects the whole house from the severe West sunlight and maintains a high degree of privacy.
This bamboo element appears in many different ways inside the house, for example, rolling up to shade the rooftop. Also, CNC iron partitions with cut leaves function as a light and air convection device, used as sunshades on balconies and for the entrance gate, creating a feeling of an open and connected house.
When designing a new building, one can create these relationships between the facade and the interior from scratch. In renovations, however, the solutions to ensure sufficient natural ventilation must match the existing building and climate. In this Renovation of a Village House in San Esteban d'en Bas by unparelld'arquitectes, for example, the free space between two buildings is partially covered with three levels of terraces, expanding the home with more open-air living spaces and ensuring lighting and ventilation in both houses. There are folding screens that can close or open up according to the time of year.
On the other hand, providing natural ventilation when renovating apartments is particularly challenging because it is not possible to intervene on the facades. In the projects for Apartment 3 Zero 8, by Debaixo do Bloco Arquitetura, and the Brigadeiro Apartment, by Nommo Arquitetos, the original floor plans were very closed and made cross-ventilation quite difficult. In both projects, the architects decided to strategically tear down the walls to create a more integrated space and ensure better air circulation.
In the renovation of Apartment 112 Sul by CoDA architects, the architects decided to tear down specific walls while also highlighting the existing screen block facade. The substantial reduction in the laundry area was the key point that made it possible to connect the kitchen and the living room, thus opening the view to the posterior facade, creating a new protagonist to space: the cobogó wall. The pattern was recreated on the kitchen ceiling with gypsum boards, reinforcing the connection between outside and inside.
As we have seen, residential projects can certainly benefit from natural ventilation, both new buildings, and renovations. However, commercial environments and spaces that are intended to accommodate a large number of people are usually artificially ventilated. It is quite a challenge to opt for a natural ventilation system in these spaces but, some architects still choose this solution for the sake of sustainability, as seen in the Cantina Monteiro Ribas by PF Architecture Studio.
The project consists of an intervention on a building in an industrial complex located on the northern outskirts of Porto, Portugal. The goal of the client was to intervene in the administrative building and implement a program aimed at the collaborators, which included a canteen that was intended to feel more like a restaurant rather than an industrial canteen. The space is divided into different environments using a succession of panels, both fixed and foldable, made of wood slats, which can be moved to allow different configurations. This deconstruction of the space helps in terms of distribution and also ensures good ventilation and airflow.
Another project that also chooses natural ventilation in an environment for large gatherings is ANOHA—The Children’s World of the Jewish Museum Berlin by Olson Kundig. Located within an existing former flower market hall, the heart of ANOHA is a circular wooden ark, standing almost 23 feet (7 meters) tall with a 92-foot (28-meter) base diameter. To ensure ventilation in the ark, sustainable strategies are embedded in the architectural design as an integral part of the user experience. Ceiling fans and operable windows allow for air exchange and natural ventilation.
Offices and workplaces are some of the most difficult environments to successfully incorporate natural ventilation. The Hayden Place by Cuningham Group, which is targeted for LEED Gold certification, features a host of sustainable elements, such as trickle vents that allow fresh air to circulate through the space and exit through mechanical ventilation, using exhaust vents on the opposite end of the building. These ducts integrate into the design without creating any distractions.
Finally, the Second Home Offices in Hollywood, by Selgascano, combines architectural and interior design to create an environment dramatically different from the conventional office setting by organizing the workspaces in a cluster of stand-alone oval-shaped glass offices surrounded by greenery. There are operable windows to ensure air circulation inside each workspace. Using a very simple strategy, such as operable windows, this unusual project ensures natural cross-ventilation while bringing workers closer to nature.