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Climatic uncertainty and the architecture of survivability

Climatic uncertainty and the architecture of survivability

Isaac A. Meir (Sakis)
Dept. Structural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

A number of trends converge in creating completely new scenarios questioning the continuation of human habitation in various parts of the globe. These trends include a growing climatic uncertainty with weather extremes becoming more intense and more frequent, but also with urbanization becoming the predominant settlement trend, as well as the driving force behind economy. Big urban centers are known to have their distinct microclimate, and when this is combined with weather extremes, the combination can prove lethal. However, people in industrialized countries spend over 90% of their lives indoors. Outdoors is not our natural environment anymore as we have evolved into building animals. Thus the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) affects our comfort (thermal, visual, psychological), our wellbeing, our health, our productivity, achievements, and happiness Yet most of our buildings fail to provide for any of these needs. On the contrary, they harm us in many different ways. They are poorly designed and detailed and cause us to use auxiliary energy to condition them, even in temperate climates, which, in turn, affects negatively the outdoors, too. They are built and finished with materials emitting harmful gases (off gassing), particles, and radiation. They are poorly ventilated and trap indoor and outdoor pollutants, pathogens and allergens, and induce fungal growth. Data from a large number of Post-Occupancy Evaluation (POE) studies, surveys and research projects from Israel and abroad, will illustrate the above claims and propose some elementary remedies which architects and engineers, as well as any building user, should know, yet most of us ignore. The quality of Indoor Environments may prove of vital importance for the actual survivability of people, certainly those in high risk groups – the old, the chronically ill, those with cardio-vascular or respiratory problems, the pregnant, the babies. Yet IEQ in poorly designed buildings may prove much worse than that outdoors. Various countries are already considering the possibility of relocating their population from climatically unsustainable areas, whereas elsewhere climatic refugees are crossing borders in numbers that reach tens of millions annually. The uncontrolled congestion caused by such events exacerbates conditions in already densely populated urban centers. This presentation attempts to make the case for green technologies and green buildings as the only possible alternative strategy to reverse—or at least significantly delay—a concentration of populations toward and in the more temperate zones. Going green may, in fact, be the only strategy for survival in climatically contested regions.

The extended abstract and supplementary material