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Thermal Insulation: The Latest Architecture and News

Introspection, Elevation, Covering-Up: Radical Architectural Operations for Adverse Climates

The flexibility of architecture allows it to continuously change and adjust its form in response to technological progress, social and artistic trends, and the collective experiences we undergo. Large-scale global events, such as the transatlantic migrations of the 19th century, the impact of tuberculosis on design, and most recently, the effects of the last major global health crisis (COVID-19), have all played significant roles in shaping the evolution of architecture.

In the context of the climate crisis, the role of architecture and urbanism has been extensively debated, as it represents one of the greatest challenges of this century. It is undeniable that while there are active efforts through policies and innovation to prevent reaching a point of no return, architecture is already adapting to the changes and extreme conditions caused by it. Rather than thinking of a distant or dystopian future scenario, the gradual changes in climatic conditions have been drivers for modifying, through architectural operations, how we conceive contemporary buildings.

Design Guide: Working with Fiber Cement Facades

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The manipulation and combination of materials are ongoing pursuits in architecture. This has not only broadened the possibilities for construction but also enabled the creation of distinctive shapes and aesthetics by using the same materiality. An example of this is Portland cement, an essential element in the mixture of water and aggregates that make concrete, which allows the creation of both load-bearing and decorative elements. In parallel, as a result of the exploration of innovative materials, fiber cement emerged (invented by Ludwig Hatschek) at the end of the 19th century, combining Portland cement, mineral-based materials, and cellulose fibers.

Nowadays, fiber cement —distinguished by its key technical qualities of slenderness, lightness, durability, and flexible aesthetics— has stood out in various applications associated with design, ranging from furnishings to facade systems. It is in the latter where it has adopted notable expressions due to its textures, incombustibility, rain resistance, and malleability. For this reason, we have developed a design guide that addresses the use of fiber cement, exploring the principles that should be considered when designing the facade, regarding its materiality, dimensions, layout, details, and special applications.

Ecological, Lightweight, and Slender: Energy-Efficient Architecture with Translucent Polycarbonate

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In the contemporary context, global warming has marked a turning point in the way we think about architecture. We are witnessing record temperatures on our planet and a challenging panorama in many large cities, characterized by heatwaves and, in some cases, more severe winters. These circumstances have triggered a cycle in which the demand for heating and cooling systems increases, which, in turn, translates into higher energy and operating costs for buildings.

Given this situation, it becomes imperative to design energy-efficient buildings to reduce both the environmental impact and the associated costs. One of the strategies to achieve this is to properly plan the facade, which, serving a function similar to the building's skin, can help reduce the energy required for heating and cooling. In this context, the polycarbonate panels developed by Rodeca contribute to the energy efficiency of buildings, in addition to their lightweight, slender construction, and translucent aesthetics.

A Glimpse into the Evolution of Insulation Materials in Architecture

Although more related to evolutionary aspects than to architecture itself, the inherent physical fragility of human beings has required, since prehistoric times, that we protect our bodies and our buildings from external elements. As an example, beginning with the primitive huts used in the earliest forms of domestic architecture, furs were employed as an exterior covering to restrict the flow of air and, consequently, regulate the interior environment.

Subsequently, we have observed an evolution that clearly shows advances in insulation techniques, going from vernacular materials such as adobe to an increase in the thickness of walls using stone or brick, finally reaching the cavity walls developed in the 19th century, which left a small air chamber between an exterior and an interior face of the wall. Its later popularization led to the introduction of insulation between both faces, a system that is widely recognized and used today and has laid the foundations for further developments in this field.

Climate-Proof Architecture: Supertextured Cladding for Extreme Conditions

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One of the primary functions of architecture is to provide shelter, fulfilling the physiological and safety needs at the base of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human motivation. Throughout history, the need for shelter has been evident in our ancestors’ behavior, who sought refuge in caves to protect themselves from weather conditions and predators. As societies shifted from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle and basic needs were easily met, shelters became more advanced, evolving into purpose-built spaces. These early shelters withstood the elements of their time and laid the foundation for modern architecture as we know it today.

Today, extreme weather conditions due to climate change are testing cities, buildings and materials. Venice is flooding, and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is experiencing melting ice. Without action, conditions will continue to worsen, increasing the need for efficient strategies that allow us to coexist with the environment and to develop more resistant materials for our buildings. An example of these materials of the future is NATURCLAD-B, a high-quality, maintenance-free wood panel system designed for architecture, interior design and construction.

The Role of Environmentally-Friendly Materials in Stadium Development and Renovations

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup was unique as the first FIFA tournament held in the Middle East. In another first, the FIFA World Cup, historically held between June and July, was moved to November and December, in view of Qatar’s 40˚C+ climate during the summer months. Even during the cooler months, Qatar’s average temperature reaches 26˚C. Combining this with the heat emitted by tightly packed spectators would at times have made the experience uncomfortable. As a result, Qatar air-conditioned eight of the nine open-air football stadiums – a significant challenge which was overcome through innovative design, technology and architecture and by utilizing spot cooling; and a complex undertaking when it is also important to maintain sustainability credentials.

To effectively cool the stadiums, the most crucial challenge was to prevent or at least reduce the hot air from outside coming into the stadium, which was achieved through the stadiums’ design and architecture.

Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

In a study recently published by AIA, less than 13% of architectural firms have incorporated building performance as part of their practice. With buildings contributing 40% of total carbon emissions leading to climate change, just 25 projects are roughly equivalent to planting 1 million trees each year. In addition to that, teams that are able to showcase data-driven and performance-driven decision-making and feature an energy analysis in every pursuit are able to increase fees and generate more revenue. Although integrating building performance sounds like a no-brainer, it proves to be difficult at many firms, because in addition to the practical changes, it requires a culture shift. That culture shift can only happen if the tools are easy to use, accurate, and mesh well with current workflows. Right now is the perfect time to tackle these culture changes due to a few reasons:

5 Ways to Discuss Building Performance for Your Next Project Pursuit

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Today in the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions (EESI) and 78% of electricity usage. The most sustainability-focused firms run energy simulations for less than 50% of their projects (10% for a typical firm) and only doing so late in the process when design changes are limited and insufficient to combat red flags found in the performance report (AIA 2030 report). We can make building performance widespread once we help the entire community discuss the subject in terms of investment and return. Especially during a project pursuit, since having the buy in from the whole team helps ensure the key project metrics are met. Owners are seeking out teams who are using actual metrics and data driven processes that affect their bottom line. This new approach to practice is what makes the younger teams’ standout and will benefit both the climate and the bottom-line. Here are 5 ways to talk about building performance in your project pursuits: 

How to Calculate the Thermal Transmittance (U-Value) in the Envelope of a Building

How to Calculate the Thermal Transmittance (U-Value) in the Envelope of a Building - Image 1 of 4
Cortesía de ArchDaily

When designing the envelope of projects, we must pay special attention to each of the elements that comprise it, since each of these layers has specific qualities that will be decisive in the thermal behavior of our building as a whole. 

If we divide 1 m2 of our envelope by the temperature difference between its faces, we will obtain a value that corresponds to the thermal transmittance, also called U-Value. This value tells us a building's level of thermal insulation in relation to the percentage of energy that passes through it; if the resulting number is low we will have a well-isolated surface and, on the contrary, a high number alerts us of a thermally deficient surface.

What is CI and How to Design a Continuous Insulation System

What is CI and How to Design a Continuous Insulation System - Image 20 of 4
Courtesy of STO

CI (Continuous Insulation System) is an insulated facade system for walls and ventilated slabs that works through the superposition of 5 skins: fixation, insulation, waterproofing (open to the diffusion of the vapor and resistant to impact), and an outer cladding layer.

How are these components installed, and how do they work? Is it a system for new projects or can it be incorporated into existing buildings (retrofit)? How to design an CI correctly for my architecture project? Find these and other answers, below.

Eco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time

With the aim of promoting more efficient ways to isolate and protect building envelopes, the Chilean team Rootman has developed Thermoroot; a biodegradable and 100% natural insulation made from roots without genetic modifications or chemical additives. These roots make up what the company is calling a Radicular Mattress which, in addition to thermally and acoustically insulating the walls, floors, and ceilings of buildings, it is fire resistant.

Eco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time - SustainabilityEco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time - SustainabilityEco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time - SustainabilityEco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time - SustainabilityEco-Friendly Insulation Offers Thermal Performance, Sound Absorption and Fire Resistance at the Same Time - More Images+ 8