Some of the most picturesque projects are those built in the mountains; the rustic cabin wrapped with a floor-to-ceiling glass panel that overlooks the snow-covered trees. Visually, the architecture exudes an enchanting feeling, but is it truly a habitable space? When houses are built on an elevation of 3,000 meters, installing a fire element alone is not efficient or sustainable. Spaces on such altitudes or particular geographic locations require to be treated thoroughly, beginning with the architecture itself. Whether it's through hydronic in-floor heating systems or wall-mounted chimneys, this interior focus explores how even the most extreme winter conditions did not get in the way of ensuring optimum thermal comfort.
Architects are often met with residential and commercial projects in cold climates, generating numerous solutions to how they can provide adequate and continuous heating throughout the interior space. And with that, several factors come to mind: environmental awareness, functionality, durability, adaptability, customization, and cost efficiency. Will the space accommodate the client's changing needs? Will the heating solution cost more than the building itself? Will the solution function just as well if the climate gets colder/warmer?
Generally, there are two main functions to consider: providing heat and/or insulating it (while they often go hand-in-hand, some clients opt for only one of the two options depending on their location and needs). When it comes to providing heat, natural sources like chimneys or electrical sources like radiators are often implemented. Insulating heat, on the other hand, requires work on the structure itself, ranging from the material selection and thickness of the walls to the interior circulation and room layout.
Read on to discover 8 different ways architects generated and/or sustained heat within their interior spaces.
The Structure's Walls
Today, architects have become progressively aware of the relationship between architecture, humans, and nature, which resulted in the utilization of passive systems in their design processes. Although efficient passive systems heavily rely on the location of the project, there are also several factors, such as the building’s construction material, opaque-to-glazed ratio, heat reflection percentage, and insulation level, that contribute as well. When architecture is self-contained, the building's envelope no longer serves as a filter between the outdoor climate and indoor environment only, but as an independent barrier that secures the temperature inside and ensures thermal comfort.
Radiant floor heating, as explained in this article, has been utilized in architecture since 350 BC in the form of a "Hypocaust", which is a raised floor system on ceramic piles where, at one end, a furnace provides heat to the underground space through walls constructed of perforated bricks. Modern-day floor heating, however, works through air conduction, radiation, and convection, using electrical resistances or thin fluid-filled hoses. Among the several benefits of heated floors is the fact that the environment is entirely heated and that the heat source is fully concealed beneath the flooring surface.
One of the most common heat sources of large-scale contemporary projects is the central HVAC system, which releases heat through air vents located in ceilings and walls. Although common, but these mechanical systems tend to be extremely energy-consuming, which is not optimal for an environmentally friendly solution.
Another commonly used system is the radiator. A large amount of residential projects across the world used to rely on central radiators to provide heat, and still do to this day. Similar to the central HVAC system, radiators function by transporting liquid from a central boiler through pipes, and converting them into heat, to be released through metallic grills or panels located on the lower parts of walls. This type of heating system can be powered by electricity, natural gas, or fuel, depending on the design.
Another common heat source is the wall-mounted chimney, a vertical ventilation structure made of stone, clay, or concrete, that combusts or extracts the smoke produced by the fireplace below, and releases it into the outdoor air.
When the interior is spacious enough, a free-standing chimney is installed to provide heat all around it. Depending on the design and placement of the chimney, some of them are designed to release heat from all sides, while others are limited to just one.
In addition to the solutions mentioned above, architects further ensure that heat is perceived through the color palette, whether it is the furniture, fit-outs, or wall colors. A color range of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns often bring about the sensation of warmth.
Thermal inertia is largely controlled by the materials used in the architecture. In colder regions, low thermal inertia materials, such as wood, are commonly used so that the interiors heat up faster and remain warm for a long period of time. In addition to the construction material, specific fabrics, such as wool and leather, further ensure the sensation of heat.
This article is part of an ArchDaily series that explores features of interior architecture, from our own database of projects. Every month, we will highlight how architects and designers are utilizing new elements, new characteristics and new signatures in interior spaces around the world. As always, at ArchDaily, we highly appreciate the input of our readers. If you think we should mention specific ideas, please submit your suggestions.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 22, 2021.