Sustainability

The concept of sustainable development, and associated practices such as sustainable construction, lend themselves to investigation via the sketchbook. It is possible to use freehand drawing to explore aspects of modern green design, be it the use of solar energy, wind power or natural ventilation. Conversely, most of the buildings constructed before the Industrial Revolution utilised local renewable energy sources, building materials were from the immediate locality, transport and farming practices relied on human and horse power, and cities were located where natural resources demanded. There was little or no importation of energy, food, water or materials, and since there was scarcity all round, there was a great deal of reuse and recycling. In this there are lessons for the future, which can be recorded and understood through freehand drawing. So sketching can help reveal best green practice, whether old buildings or more recent examples are employed.

The resources available also shaped the technologies and design practices employed. Here again the sketchbook can be used to study the crafts as well as the buildings and cities produced. In this there is no difference in principle between practice in the eighteenth century and that in the twenty-first. In both cases, science and technology seek to achieve the maximum benefit from the minimum of resource consumption, using design to mediate between resources and uses. Hence, as in all sustainable practice, design and technology are intimately related. The function of drawing is to record this relationship so that lessons can be learned that may have relevance for future design practice.

Sustainable development, defined as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, is essentially concerned with development, i.e. what architects do. Sustainable development is about cities and large-scale decisions that act upon global players, such as politicians. The architect is involved in this, but more commonly at the level of sustainable design and sustainable construction. Hence the subject of sustainability is best explored through freehand drawing at all three levels - urban, building and construction.

There are different green practices in different regions of the world as a result of variations in climate or cultural practices. The sketchbook can be used to explore these differences and in the process gain some insight into the subject of sustainable development. Since there are marked inequalities in the global distribution of resources, from water to agricultural land and energy supplies, the subject has considerable educational benefit if sketching

18.1

Drawing of the south-facing façade at BedZED, a low-energy housing project designed by Bill Dunster in south London.

18.1

Drawing of the south-facing façade at BedZED, a low-energy housing project designed by Bill Dunster in south London.

is employed as the media of investigation rather than words. Drawings allow the experience of green design to be analysed from various perspectives - plan, section, sketch views, details, etc. When key words are added, the drawings display deeper understanding thereby allowing the subject to be shared with others and assessed if they are done as part of college work. Such sketches should retain an analytical quality if the principles are to be understood, although they can be more descriptive if the aim is to relay the character and experience of green design.

Sustainable architecture comes in various guises, from modern solar-designed houses to traditional wind towers or courtyard forms. In terms of solar energy, there is the problem of keeping buildings cool (a growing problem

18.2

Sketch of ventilating cowls at BedZED. They rotate to take advantage of wind to cool the houses and workshops beneath.

18.2

Sketch of ventilating cowls at BedZED. They rotate to take advantage of wind to cool the houses and workshops beneath.

with global warming) as well as exploiting the sun for heat gain. Hence practice varies in different regions of the world and at different times of the year. For example, in many twentieth-century modern movement houses the architect balanced the need for high levels of daylight with solar protection in the summer, whilst also affording access to the health-giving qualities of sunshine in winter. Many buildings (both houses and schools) constructed around the mid century provide an interesting case study of how architectural design responded to climate and health in a sustainable way.

There is a clear link between cultural practices in architecture and sustainability. Much vernacular architecture carries in its construction and craft practices a solid knowledge of low energy design, recycling, the

Development sketch of the Green Building in Manchester to designs by Sir Terry Farrell. The three renewable energy sources employed in the building (solar, wind and geothermal) are clearly shown. The building claims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 75 per cent. (Terry Farrell and Partners)

18.4

Sketch by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw explaining the energy strategy at the British Pavilion at the Seville Expo. (Sir Nicholas Grimshaw)

\atcJjCA ■
Sketches Animal Rescue Systems

use of thermal mass for heating and cooling, rainwater collection, sustainable drainage systems and integration between human and animal shelter to provide greater levels of comfort. There was a respect for nature and the landscape that provided the resources upon which the building or village drew. Modern practice has often broken the continuity of these traditions with serious social, cultural and environmental consequences. By using the sketchbook to learn from the past, students and architects may be better prepared for a future with fewer global resources upon which to draw. In regions like Africa and the Middle East, where much future dev-elopment attention is likely to be focused, there are well-established vernacular practices that are unique to their localities and climate. Recording and under-standing these provides the opportunity to update them for the demands of the twenty-first century. Rather than take Western industrial traditions into these areas, it may be more valid to transport ideas from the less developed world into the resource-hungry cities of Europe and the USA.

It is temping to use the camera to undertake the type of recording and analyse described here. However, as chapter 10 argues, photography has limitations in reaching a deep understanding of design or construction practices. The camera records the surfaces, not the structural or spatial arrangements, nor the thickness of materials or air flows. The drawing is better equipped to undertake this type of investigation, although sketches and photographs can be combined to fully narrate an example of green practice. The benefits of drawing to learning are obvious: there are judgements and interpretations that need to be made (unlike in photography), and in the quality of the graphic investigation there is a basis to assess the level of intellectual inquiry. Sketches also provide a vehicle for taking learning from an existing building and applying the principles to the design of a new one. Hence in learning about sustainable design from existing structures, whether vernacular or more recent examples, the sketches are the bridge into the imagination.

As mentioned earlier, the subject can be examined at three levels - urban, building and construction. All are

relevant to the architecture student. Three examples are given here from the author's sketchbook. The first concerns the relationship between transport systems and urban design using Tokyo as an example, based upon a study visit with Edinburgh students in 2005. The metro system in Tokyo has shaped the profile of the city above ground. Where stations are located there is a greater intensity of buildings of various kinds from offices to hotels and apartment blocks. As a result the city achieves the kind of mixed use, pedestrian friendly compaction advocated by architects such as Lord Rogers. This type of intensity of commercial and cultural life leads to other changes to the city fabric. Parks become enclosed and cherished for the tranquillity they provide, railway stations become interchanges connecting different transport modes together, and streets become places mainly for people rather than cars. Using the sketchbook, the world below and above ground can be superimposed, the mixture of land-uses analysed and street life described -leading to a better understanding of sustainable practice in Japanese cities.

These sketches show various methods of dealing with environmental control using architectural means rather than air-conditioning. The fins, louvers, balconies and overhangs protect the buildings from the midday sun whilst also encouraging cross-ventilation. These houses are in southern Portugal and date from 1930-60.

18.6

Sketch showing the relationship between development above and below ground in Tokyo. Public transport is an essential element of sustainable development.

18.6

Sketch showing the relationship between development above and below ground in Tokyo. Public transport is an essential element of sustainable development.

Another example, this time at the level of building design, is that of courtyard houses in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Again the studies are based upon student field trips to the region. The form of the traditional courtyard house was a direct response to climatic conditions, although over time it assumed a cultural and social significance. The dimensions of the courtyard, thickness of walls, presence or absence of ventilating chimneys, the size and position of windows and much else was a direct response to solar design. These characteristics lend themselves to sketchbook analysis and, if time permits, to more thorough investigation of temperatures at different times of the day and over the year. By combining visual analysis with building physics, the student can learn a great deal about sustainability in the field.

The final example at the level of construction concerns the use of ventilating cowls in contemporary building design in the UK. The sketches concern buildings of different types (library) and different architects (Rab Bennetts and Bill Dunster). The aim behind the drawings was to investigate the workings of natural wind-assisted ventilation, the impact upon the interior spaces and the external aesthetic consequences. By combining different types of drawing (mainly sketches and cross-sections) it was possible to understand more fully this phenomenon of current green design practice.

The exercises described here were of academic as well as personal interest. The sketchbook provided the means to more fully understand the subject of sustainable development than had photography alone been employed. Different types of drawings were needed to interpret the complexities of sustainability, and frequently words and arrows were added to the sketches to elaborate in some detail. As with understanding architecture generally, the use of sketching gets beneath the surface of subjects, allowing the principles to be better understood.

Typical courtyard house in the Middle East. The drawing explains the traditional methods employed for cooling using wind towers.

Study of ventilating cowls at Brighton Public Library designed by Bennetts Associates. The building was short-listed for the Stirling Prize in 2005.

The Loch Lomond Visitor Centre designed by Bennetts Associates uses local oak in its construction and rhythms drawn from the adjacent woodland. The building seeks to reduce its environmental and visual impact whilst still being modernist in spirit.

Solar Power

Solar Power

Start Saving On Your Electricity Bills Using The Power of the Sun And Other Natural Resources!

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment