In the past, glazed surfaces tended to be small and almost opaque; but this began to change throughout the years due to the growing trend of increasingly larger glass panes in construction. Accompanied by thinner frames, they dilute the boundaries between the inside and the outside, and have become ubiquitous in modern buildings. In fact, it is increasingly rare to find a contemporary work of architecture that does not include the remarkable presence of glass: this material is present in the most diverse architectural scales, and its transparency provides harmonious integration with the surroundings and generous natural light for buildings. Traditional systems with frames are still predominant, but frameless glass facades are gaining ground in specific architectural projects, as they create perfect connections between the glass and the structure of the building, resulting in a singular aesthetic with soft and harmonious transitions. By eliminating heavy frames, a project's aesthetics can be enhanced while also improving the quality of life inside.
Energy efficiency: The Latest Architecture and News
The buildings and construction sectors are key players in the fight against climate change –Combined, they are responsible for 30% of global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector CO2 emissions. Further, energy demand from buildings and construction continues to rise, driven by improved access to energy in developing countries, growing need for air conditioning, greater ownership and use of energy-consuming appliances, and a rapid growth in global floor area. Without targeted policy actions, the energy used in buildings could increase up to around 70% in 2050.
In Search of Well-Tempered Architecture: The Pavilion of Slovenia Explores Energy Efficiency at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale
At the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, the Pavilion of Slovenia set out to explore the theme of ecology and the paradoxical ways in which architecture relates to it. Instead of understanding it strictly through energy-efficient adaptations like heat pumps or recovery ventilation, the exhibition titled +/- 1 °C: In Search of a Well-Tempered Architecture aims to address the theme holistically. The Pavilion curators Jure Grohar, Eva Gusel, Maša Mertelj, Anja Vidic, Matic Vrabič, together with fifty European architects and creatives, researched and analyzed vernacular buildings from Europe to gain insight into the living example of intuitive adaptations.
Heating and cooling buildings have always been two of the most important challenges in ensuring indoor user comfort. At a biological level, our bodies generate heat through metabolism, a physicochemical process. And although the human body has temperature regulation mechanisms, such as sweating and vasodilation, sometimes we need additional help to achieve thermal comfort. Therefore, since ancient times, traditional strategies have been sought to help achieve this, and many have been adapted to their historical and material contexts.
When designing architectural projects, protecting a building’s walls is key for ensuring its longevity, durability, and resistance to the elements, therefore preserving its aesthetic appeal. Among the protective measures available, cladding systems are exterior coverings that integrate varying textures, colors and finishes, allowing for customization and creative expression, while also providing weather resistance and thermal performance.
Exploring materials beyond traditional masonry cladding or commercial curtain wall systems, Cupa Pizarras has developed natural slate rainscreen facades. From linear to honeycomb patterns, these geometric facade layouts meet the requirements of current architectural trends, which demand more sustainable and energy-efficient buildings. The combination of high-durability tectonic slate with innovative fastening techniques, as well as the efficiency of rainscreen cladding, makes CUPACLAD a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing alternative for enhancing the LEED certification of projects.
Enhancing the energy performance of existing buildings through refurbishment processes provides the opportunity to create more comfortable and sustainable environments, while also improving their functionality, aesthetics, and safety. Architectural approaches to these renovations encompass various aspects of a building, including interior spaces, structure, internal systems, and facades.
When it comes to rethinking a building's envelope, STACBOND’s composite panel solutions delve into the development of ventilated facades. These facade systems serve as an architectural strategy for energy-efficient building renovations. Minimizing energy consumption for heating and cooling, the rehabilitation strategy incorporates thermal insulation, moisture management, and thermal mass optimization.
As societies evolve, educational facilities also undergo continuous transformation processes to keep up. In terms of their design strategies, they must embrace modern approaches that respond to the changing needs of students and teachers. Including flexible, inclusive, and engaging spaces that seamlessly integrate technological advances, contemporary educational design aims to enhance learning and collaborative work, as well as comfort and wellbeing.
Kalwall focuses on developing forward-thinking solutions for human-centered design that address these evolving needs, while responding to a tight budget. Through a collaborative strategy with architecture and engineering projects, they focus on four ways to design optimal learning environments, including daylight design, energy efficiency, safety, and cost savings through renovation and installation.
Architecture is a continually evolving form of human expression influenced by cultural and contextual factors. While many of the problems we face today aren't directly linked to architecture, it has the ability to provide or facilitate solutions to these challenges. This has been evident throughout history, as societal issues have played a significant role in shaping our built environments. For instance, during the Victorian era, the infamous "Great Stink" led to the modernization of London's drainage system and urban layout. Similarly, the 2008 recession gave rise to the sharing economy and coworking spaces. Nowadays, the climate crisis is transforming the way we conceive architecture, seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and cities to achieve the Paris Agreement objectives. Given this backdrop, what challenges should we expect in the future?
Renovations are not only a popular way to update and modernize homes, offices, and other structures but also a critical component in reducing carbon emissions and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The existing building stock is responsible for a significant portion of global carbon emissions, with energy inefficient buildings being a major contributor.
According to a report by the Financial Times, there is a large energy efficiency gap in the UK housing stock, with many buildings falling short of their potential energy performance levels. Unsurprisingly, old buildings in the UK are seen as one of the primary factors contributing to this energy efficiency gap.
Every day, architects and designers tackle an ambitious task: crafting spaces that not only captivate the eye but that also nurture the health and well-being of those who inhabit them. A key part of this mission involves implementing design strategies that foster a pleasant indoor climate, as temperature, humidity and air quality all have a significant impact on users’ mood, productivity and overall health. Humans simply operate better if they are comfortable and content in their home or working environment. Although air-conditioning, ventilation and heating systems have conventionally served as popular solutions to regulate indoor climate, they often carry with them undesirable consequences –the presence of dust and bacteria, the need for regular maintenance and a cluttered, unappealing look. There is, however, an alternative solution.
To initiate change of any kind, one must first be aware of the problem at hand. In the construction industry –which is responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions and countless other environmental impacts– mastering and understanding the numbers related to its processes is extremely important. But assessing the impact of a product or a material is much more complex than one might think. It includes the exhaustive collection of data about its inputs (for example, the raw materials, energy, and water used) and outputs (such as emissions and waste) associated with each stage of the life cycle. This allows for the quantification of the embodied carbon and other environmental impacts, the identification of where performance can be improved, and provides real numbers for a comprehensive and unified comparison between materials and products.
The Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment (wbLCA) method studies the totality of products present in a building, providing valuable information for decision-making related to the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual demolition or reuse of a building. In other words, it refers to the totality of the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) for all of the building's components. Recently, the National Research Council of Canada, in collaboration with the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, released the national guidelines for wbLCA, which reflect what is practiced in North America. The aim is to harmonize the practice and to aid interpretation and compliance with relevant standards, with the guidelines being updated periodically as it evolves, enabling the calculation of reliable baselines or benchmarks, supporting LCA-based compliance schemes and assisting in the development and use of wbLCA software.
While approaching Wainscott Beach on Long Island’s South Fork in early December, one could see the most tangible aspect of offshore wind’s New York progress even before hearing the crash of waves: three pillars, each about as tall as the Statue of Liberty, jutting up from the ocean. They were the legs of the Jill, a liftboat from the Gulf of Mexico stationed about a third of a mile off the coast of Long Island’s South Fork.
A 2022 United Nations report claims that the negative impacts of the climate crisis are mounting much faster than scientists predicted less than a decade ago. Rising greenhouse-gas emissions could soon outstrip the ability of many communities to adapt, and the consequences will continue to hit the world’s most vulnerable populations. As climate scientist Maarten van Aalst suggests, “Any further delay in global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” The data is clear: to protect our planet, we need to prevent a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures this century. To do so, the world must achieve a 45% reduction in global carbon emissions from 2010 levels to 2030, to then reach a net-zero state by 2050. It is evident, however, that we are on track to miss this goal by a substantial amount. The clock is ticking, and every industry should act fast (and drastically) to even dream of greener cities.
The motto of the Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 was to convert and expand rather than to demolish and reconstruct. Recycling windows, using biodegradable materials for luminaires and connecting light with sensors represented just some innovative examples of the international university-level student competition in Wuppertal, Germany. For the first time, the competition presented an award for sustainable architectural lighting. This was a question of quality as much as quantity, and that applies equally to daylight and artificial light.
It seems like everyone is going solar these days. In the United States, the net solar power generation has increased by more than 113,000 million kilowatt hours in the last decade. Solar integration with residential projects saves homeowners money on energy bills and increases property value over time. As solar integration technology advances, the advantages span beyond financial and environmental; solar panels are assuming an aesthetic role in modern architecture, too.
Solar integration is becoming an expectation among new construction homebuyers. Architects and designers must adapt accordingly to increase the availability of photovoltaic integration in residential developments. However, with careful planning and execution, solar panels can be better incorporated during the design and construction phases. This article outlines how homebuilders can meet consumer demands for solar integration, creating an easy-to-follow pathway for accommodating changing home design trends.
The total energy demand from buildings has risen dramatically in recent years. Driven by improved access in developing countries, greater ownership of energy-consuming devices and increasing urban densities, today it accounts for over one-third of global energy consumption and nearly 15% of direct CO2 emissions. As the climate crisis aggravates and its consequences are more visible than ever, the architecture and construction industry must respond accordingly. It must take responsibility for its environmental impact and give priority to reducing energy consumption, whether through design decisions, construction techniques or innovative products. The key lies, however, in not sacrificing aesthetics and comfort in the process.
Nowadays everything is “painted” green. It's green packaging, green technologies, green materials, green cars and, of course, green architecture. A “green wave”, stimulated by the environmental and energy crisis we are facing, with emphasis on climate change and all the consequences linked to global warming. This calamitous situation is confirmed by the second part of the report entitled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and presented in recent weeks. It reveals that, although adaptation efforts are being observed in all sectors, the progress implemented so far is very low, as the actions taken are not enough.