Ecologically savvy construction

Awareness of the need for more energy-efficient buildings is sure to grow as fuel prices continue to climb. About 30 percent of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning of buildings, according to findings presented at a 2003 conference «Bioclimatic Architecture in Office Buildings.» Meanwhile, in Greece, 89.4 percent of buildings were constructed before 1981 when the thermal insulation regulation was enacted. New practices and technologies can provide cuts of 30-50 percent in a building’s energy consumption, according to some estimates, and it has been claimed that primary energy savings of 70 percent are possible in an average new office building. These techniques are the focus of a series of weekly seminars on Bioclimatic Architecture now under way at the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, an organization that has consistently shown a strong awareness of ecological issues and the effect modern life has on the environment. The seminars, intended to provide information for members of the public wanting to learn more about the subject, are being presented over the next few weeks by distinguished Greek architects and town planners who have also produced innovative work abroad. «Increasing energy consumption without the development of renewable energy sources is a dead end,» architect Elena Stavropoulou, who is one of the lecturers and who organized the series, told Kathimerini English Edition. «As we are finding out on a daily basis, energy is one of the most important causes of conflict. At the same time it is generally accepted that our environment is on the verge of an irreversible disaster.» Very simply put, bioclimatic architecture takes advantage of environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, solar radiation and climate, into account in the design of a building, as well as the orientation of the site, the activities of the occupants, the building elements and surrounding landscape. It provides solutions to the problems of the heating and cooling of the building to avoid the use of energy-consuming and polluting technology. «The design itself is the main factor in reducing the imbalance created in producing a built environment,» explained Stavropoulou. «Bioclimatic architecture could contribute to the longer-term goal of the use of renewable sources of energy,» she added. «The user/consumer can play a decisive role in the development of an ecological ethic. We should be more demanding as users/consumers in any way that we are involved in the issue of architectural design,» she said. As for the comparative cost, Stavropoulou said this is determined by many factors, including the use to which the building is to be put, whether passive or active energy-saving systems will be used, the scale of the work and climatic conditions, to name a few. Architects lecturing at the seminars include Alexandros Tombazis, who with his associates at the Meletitiki firm has produced designs ranging from the museum extension at Delphi to an award-winning church at the pilgrimage site of Fatima, in Portugal. Simos Yiannas has practiced as an architectural and environmental consultant in Athens and London and has been involved in environmental research, producing books and manuals on sustainable housing design, the design of educational buildings, tropical architecture and on natural cooling techniques. Giorgos Fatseas designed the lighting for the Greek pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1996. Elli Georgiadou created the traveling exhibition «Principles and Guidelines in Bioclimatic Design.» Michalis Souvatzidis, a well-known Greek architect, has won several awards for his architectural projects and has been a guest lecturer at universities in Thessaloniki and Athens. Yiannis Polyzos, town planner and professor at the National Technical University of Athens, is part of a research group on the environmental impact of the Olympic Games. Margarita Karavassili is an architect and the author of «Building for a Green World: Ecological Construction, Bioclimatic Architecture» (P-Systems, 1999). Program of lectures The seminar opened last Monday with lectures by Matthaios Santamouris on the role of climate and other natural factors, such as sunlight and water, that affect human comfort, and by Simos Yiannas on environmental education and sustainable environmental design. Giorgos Skourtis and Costas Tsipiras continue the series this coming Monday, October 3, with «Bioclimatic Architecture: An Innovation or Ancient Knowledge?» and «Holistic Architecture: From Bioclimatics to Ecological Building by Means of Geobiology.» The subjects of the following lectures are: October 10: Energy design systems – photovoltaics (Stelios Psomas); smart buildings and automatic systems (Agis Papadopoulos); and light and architecture / artificial lighting and architectural design (Georgios Fatseas) October 17: Applications for farmhouses (Elli Georgiadou); seaside homes (Agni Kouvela); and city homes and apartment buildings (Michalis Souvatzidis). October 24: Opportunities for bioclimatic design in industrial buildings (Elena Stavropoulou); applications for office buildings. Lykovrisi solar village (Alexandros Tombazis). October 31: Ways of intervening in urban centers in the European Union-CAMUR (Christos Adam, I. Michail, Matthaios Santamouris); bioclimatic town-planning: principles and goals for protecting the urban environment (Yiannis Polyzos). November 7: Applications in educational buildings (Frosso Trianti); and in places of worship (Alexandros Tombazis). November 14: Applications in outdoor and semi-outdoor areas (Nikos Fintikakis); art buildings: sculpture and utilitarian objects (Michalis Souvatzidis). November 21: Cost and depreciation rates (Matthaios Santamouris); economic parameters and prospects (Ioannis Palaiokrassas). November 28: National strategies for the development of alternative energy sources, Development Ministry funding programs (Margarita Karavassilis); some thoughts on architecture (Alexandros Tombazis). December 12: A discussion of conclusions and proposals. November 16-30: Exhibition of materials and innovations (all day). Lectures take place at the Society’s headquarters, 24 Tripodon, Plaka, 7-9 p.m. Cost per evening 5 euros, 40 euros for the series, 30 euros for members and students. For further details call the society at 210.322.5245,