April 30, 2009
Presented by: Jonathan Hammond, AIA, and Bruce Playle, AIA of INDIGO/Hammond and Playle Architects in Davis, Calif.
What people want to learn: “For people like me, it’s very hard to have clients for whom [sustainability] is an important issue, when it’s maybe the most important thing in the whole world right now in our society. This absolutely helps me make that case.” Michael Malone, AIA, of WKMC Architects in Dallas.
Hammond began with the observation that bioregional design has existed since the dawn of time. In the beginning, without fossil fuels, all buildings had to be extremely responsive to local climates and weather to even be deemed functional at all. He divided his topic into three sections (climate, ecosystems, and culture) and walked attendees through various projects he and Playle have worked on in the hot and arid Central Valley of California. The way a building deals with its climate has an enormous affect on reducing energy consumption, which is the ultimate purpose for a bioregional design approach. Interesting solar heat-gain fact: Over less than a day, 10 square feet of east or west facing glass will let in enough solar radiation to melt one ton of ice. For Hammond and Playle, an ecosystem is the interaction of human activities and nature in the built environment. This ecological approach emphasizes an aesthetic that connects people to nature with native flora that encourages people to use outdoor space.
What people thought: “I was interested to hear about California in general. I work in Palo Alto, and we do very specific regional architecture there. It’s interesting to hear different [approaches that are still somewhat] the same from this area.” Erica Weeks, AIA, of Fergus Garber Group in Palo Alto, Calif.
Best Practice Tips: East and west-facing windows are often prime culprits for unwanted solar heat gain. Clients usually require detailed education on how and when to use operable window systems, and this is emblematic of many vernacular building systems largely abandoned with the advent of industrial automation. “People used to know how to open up windows, and I think we can teach them again,” says Hammond. He says the technology for nearly carbon neutral building designs for most US climate zones exists now.