In the field of architecture, climatology is equally important like structural systems, plumbing systems etc. It also substantially moulded design philosophies and material choices. Climate plays a vital role in assessing the success and sustainability of any project irrespective of its typology from residential to commercial structures. The climatic factors must be integrated into the projects by the architects and designers to create a functional, sustainable and energy-efficient structure and also the design must be relevant to the specific environmental context which decides the type of materials to be used on the building and the orientation and other structural aspects.

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Climate in architecture_©Unsplash / Ricardo Gomez Angel

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Climatic parameters in architecture:

Climatic factors in a region encompass the assessment of temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind patterns, and solar radiation. These factors are crucial for architects during the early stages of conceptualising and designing buildings. Incorporating climatic considerations into design improves performance, ensuring greater comfort and well-being for occupants.

The selection of materials is influenced by the climate of the area. Selected materials must withstand the specific local atmospheric conditions they will be exposed to. Locally available materials often possess traits that align well with their climatic environment. For example, the region with extreme temperatures must have materials which can withstand high heat or cold without cracking or warping. In regions with high humidity, the materials must possess quality to resist mould and mildew. The use of adobe or rammed earth must be high in hot climates and timber is used in colder regions for its insulating characteristics.

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Building Materials_©https://dailycivil.com/types-of-building-materials-used-in-construction/

Climatically responsive architecture is frequently rooted in the local context. Architectural approaches vary depending on the climate. Hot and arid regions necessitate different strategies compared to cold and humid areas to optimize environmental comfort. For instance, in desert regions where temperatures fluctuate dramatically between day and night, incorporating passive techniques such as natural ventilation, shading devices, and thermal mass is essential for maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. Conversely, buildings in cold climates prioritize insulation, air tightness, and solar gain to conserve heat and minimize energy consumption.

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Differnt regions_©https://adoseoftruth.net/2017/07/31/life-is-hot-and-cold/

Building orientation and layout are crucially influenced by the Sun’s path, a climatic factor. It impacts how windows, overhangs, and openings should be strategically placed to manage solar gain and natural lighting. In colder regions, windows are typically oriented towards the south to capture maximum heat during winter. Conversely, in tropical areas, buildings are positioned to minimize direct sunlight exposure and leverage prevailing winds for natural cooling and ventilation.

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Building Orientation_©https://www.permaculturereflections.com/tag/temperate-climate/

Design elements of buildings vary based on climate conditions. In regions with harsh winters, steep roofs and overhangs are commonly used to assist with snow management. Similarly, areas prone to strong winds often incorporate aerodynamic building shapes to mitigate wind forces. In hot climates, buildings frequently feature large overhangs and porches to provide shade and enhance comfort.

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Steep roofs at snowy areas_©Ian Gleadle

Ventilation systems adapt to varying climatic conditions across regions. In cold winter areas, heating systems are employed to maintain warmth indoors, while hot regions utilize air conditioning to keep buildings cool. Additionally, in high-humidity regions, dehumidifiers are employed to manage moisture levels effectively.

Climate as Sustainable Practice

Being a climate-responsive architectural design, the building tends to minimize energy utilisation by using the natural environment and passive strategies. It also cuts down the impact of the building on the environment. 

Passive design strategies intend to provide a better and energy-efficient environment in a building while taking advantage of the existing environmental conditions like climate, on-site and off-site conditions and locally available materials to create a building that goes well with the environment.

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Passive design Strategy_© https://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5a83/dc6b/f197/cce4/3f00/0583/slideshow/LAngolo-Estate_17.jpg?1518591074

Energy efficient technologies have been integrated to enhance building performance which includes advanced insulation, sustainable glazing and renewable energy systems such as solar panels and wind turbines.

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High performance insulation_©https://newenglandsoundproofing.com/quiet_batt

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, California:

The non-profit research complex, completed in 1965 was designed by the architect Louis Khan. The picturesque site is located along the Pacific coast. Initially, the building was considered to create the Meetinghouse, the Village and the laboratories. Ultimately only the laboratories have been finalized. 

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Wall protrusions_©Liao Yusheng

The structure has been conceived as a series of towers which have precast protrusions where the windows face westward onto the ocean. This promotes natural ventilation in the building, it also provides thermal mass compensating the indoor temperatures. The central courtyard layout between the towers allows natural ventilation with a picturesque ocean view. 

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Cental courtyard_©Liao Yusheng

There are small bridges providing access between the two towers and allowing the natural light to enter into the research spaces. These courts act as a light well.

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Natural light_©Liao Yusheng

In conclusion, climatology significantly influences the design of buildings, encompassing aspects such as material selection, regional variations, building orientation and layout, design elements, and ventilation systems. By incorporating these climatic considerations, architects can create spaces that effectively withstand environmental challenges and external factors, thereby enhancing both the functionality and user experience of the building.

References :

Anon, (2023). How Does Climate Affect Architecture – The Tribal Climate Camp. [online] Available at: https://www.tribalclimatecamp.org/how-does-climate-affect-architecture/#:~:text=Climate%20has%20a%20huge%20impact [Accessed 6 Apr. 2024].

Sharma, P. (2023). What are Passive Design Strategies & Their Importance in architecture – 2023. [online] www.novatr.com. Available at: https://www.novatr.com/blog/passive-design-strategies-in-architecture.

‌ Fiederer, L. (2019). AD Classics: Salk Institute / Louis Kahn. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/61288/ad-classics-salk-institute-louis-kahn.

Author

Muthu Malliga is a passionate architecture student, deeply interested in architectural research and writing. She is dedicated to enlightening and inspiring a diverse audience by conveying intricate concepts, theories, and practical applications within the realm of designing and planning urban spaces.