Bioclimatic houses are houses capable of maintaining a comfortable interior temperature using only natural resources and suitable construction materials.
These types of houses are designed to achieve minimum energy consumption since they avoid the use of conventional energy. But it is not only a question of savings: they are also respectful of the environment that surrounds them and self-sufficient since they are nourished by clean and renewable energy (wind, solar photovoltaic or thermal energy).
Basic principles of bioclimatic architecture
The “bioclimatic house” concept, despite being fashionable, is not entirely new. Throughout the centuries, human beings, even without knowing it, have taken advantage of natural resources and the environment to build homes that are as comfortable as possible.
In fact, each country, or even each zone or region, incorporates specific characteristics into its traditional architecture depending on the type of materials available, the climate (humidity, temperature, rainfall, etc.) or its location.
Currently, and at a time when we are more aware of the need to be respectful with the environment, returning to this mentality is important, and that is why bioclimatic homes are postulated as one of the best construction options for the 21st century.
The philosophy of bioclimatic architecture can be divided into these three principles:
To achieve a suitable interior temperature (without the need for external energy), when designing a bioclimatic house, different strategies are used depending on the location. The most important are orientation, thermal insulation and ventilation.
For example, if the facade of the house faces south, we can have large windows in it to take advantage of the heat in the winter months, but it will also be necessary to install blinds, porches, pergolas or other solar filters to protect ourselves from the sun in summer.
We will also have to assess the thickness of the wall and wall insulation depending on the area in which we are, as well as avoid thermal bridges.
Regarding ventilation, bioclimatic houses usually have cross ventilation. This is achieved by placing windows on opposite facades. In this way, the air generates a path between a cold and a hot façade, either to cool the house in summer or to ventilate it throughout the year.
Bioclimatic houses can consume 80 or 90% less energy compared to a conventional home thanks to the use of renewable energy. In many cases, we are talking about self-sufficient homes that can generate an energy surplus for sale.
Use of natural materials
The materials of bioclimatic houses are natural and adapt to the environment. Preferably, proximity raw materials are used to save on transportation.
Some of these materials are wood or ceramic or stone materials. The first, being porous, captures excess humidity and releases it when the relative humidity level inside the home is too low. The latter have a great capacity to store heat from the sun, which helps to maintain a stable interior temperature in both winter and summer.
Characteristics and architectural criteria of bioclimatic houses
The main characteristics of bioclimatic houses are:
- Constant temperature. One of the great challenges of bioclimatic architecture is to create a perfect external building envelope thanks to the insulation and the correct airtightness of the building and its openings.
- Use of solar energy. Solar energy is used as a natural heating method in winter and as a lighting system throughout the year. In both cases, the orientation of the house and its openings, preferably located in the southern part, is essential.
- Elimination of the heat that accumulates in summer. To do this, natural means (passive cooling techniques) will be used, such as free-cooling, which uses outside air to cool or cool a space. Free-cooling systems extract air from outside, filter it, and use it for acclimatization. In this way, the return air is prevented from recirculating, obtaining an improvement in its quality inside the house.
- Adjustment of environmental conditions. The bioclimatic houses maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the year through adequate quality and air circulation within the spaces, and the storage of cold/heat in the walls.
- Improvement of the microclimate around buildings through bioclimatic design.
Some of the construction criteria of this type of housing are:
- South-facing rooms.
- Installation of ecological covers that act as thermal insulation and heat accumulator in winter, and as a heat absorber in summer.
- Minimization of the perimeter of the house.
- Use of cross ventilation.
- Use of sun protection on windows.
- Optimization of water use (gray water with treatment plant, reuse for irrigation of common areas, etc.)
- Design of interior patios that facilitate direct solar radiation in some rooms of the house.
Bioclimatic houses vs. Passive houses: what is the difference?
Bioclimatic architecture is closely related to the “passive house” movement, which we have already talked about in our article Advantages of buying a passive house.
However, although both houses built with the Lahore smart city standard and those designed with bioclimatic architecture techniques have low energy consumption, their objectives and application techniques are different.
Bioclimatic architecture projects are planned considering the climatic conditions of each area to take advantage of natural resources without causing major environmental impacts while reducing energy consumption.
Passivhaus certification, for its part, is a recognition based on indoor air quality, infiltration control, and thermal insulation of a house.
For example, in bioclimatic designs, the orientation of the windows and the building vary depending on the hemisphere in which they are located. Passive houses, on the other hand, maintain controlled comfort and air conditioning, regardless of the geographical location of the home.
Another difference is the outer envelope. In bioclimatic houses, air chambers are built to interrupt the thermal flow between the inside or outside of the house.
In the Passivhaus standard, the thermal envelope includes several layers of high thermal resistance materials to ensure insulation.
Regarding ventilation, the bioclimatic architecture uses cross ventilation, while the Passivhaus standard establishes that ventilation must be controlled by a comprehensive air conditioning system (such as aerothermal energy) that avoids deficiencies in the inflow and outflow of air.
Finally, in bioclimatic houses, users actively participate in the opening/closing of spaces. In the Passivhaus standard, air renewal and air conditioning are produced by mechanical means in which the user does not intervene.
The bioclimatic homes s offer advantages in terms of safety, thermal comfort, and energy savings improving your well-being and is an important benefit to your pocket. But they also have some cons. The main one is its cost, somewhat higher than that of a conventional home (between 10-12% more expensive).
In any case, buying a bioclimatic house is a good investment, since energy savings and its revaluation in case of sale are guaranteed.
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