The Energy Performance Gap

The energy performance gap refers to the failure of energy improvements, often undertaken at great expense, to deliver some (or occasionally all) of the promised savings. A study last year of refurbished apartment buildings in Germany, for instance, found that they missed the predicted energy savings by anywhere from 5 to 28 percent. In Britain, an evaluation of 50 “leading-edge modern buildings,” from supermarkets to health care centers, reported that they “were routinely using up to 3.5 times more energy than their design had allowed for” — and producing on average 3.8 times the predicted carbon emissions.

Researchers have generally blamed the performance gap on careless work by builders, overly complicated energy-saving technology, or the bad behaviors of the eventual occupants of a building. But a new study puts much of the blame on inept energy modeling. The title of the study asks the provocative question “Are Modelers Literate?” Even more provocatively, a press release from the University of Bath likens the misleading claims about building energy performance to the Volkswagen emissions scandal, in which actual emissions from diesel engine cars were up to 40 times higher than “the performance promised by the car manufacturer.”

Read more: Why Don’t Green Buildings Live Up to Hype on Energy Efficiency?

Lamella Roofs

lamella roof

A lamella roof, also known as the “Zollinger roof” (after Friedrich Zollinger), is a vaulted roof made up of simple, single prefabricated standard segments (mostly in timber) as a way to span large spaces. The individual pieces are joined together with bolts and/or plates to form a rhomboid pattern. Wooden sheathing covers the structure on the outside. The lamella roof was patented in 1910 and became popular between the World Wars, especially in Germany when metal for construction was in short supply. Some of these structures are now almost 100 years old and many of them remain in very good condition.

Read more: Lamella Roof, Open Source Ecology.

Building With Salt

building with salt

“The Salt Project is a biomimetic attempt to create architecture using seawater in the desert. By using locally available resources we can grow plants and create architecture without producing waste. The idea is to pump up seawater in arid areas around the world, split it in salt and fresh water, use the fresh water for produce and use the salt for architecture.” [Read more…]

African Vernacular Architecture Database

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

I am a registered architect and I have a passion for African vernacular architecture. I recently (Sept. 2014) traveled to Malawi to document the vernacular architecture in the entire country. 4,700 pictures are on the web page.

http://www.malawiarchitecture.com/

I also wanted to share with you my latest project… a data base on African vernacular architecture. This project was started because of the lack of information available on line. The data base includes images from every African country. Here is the link to the site:

http://www.africavernaculararchitecture.com/

The goal of the project is to have people, who live or work in an Africa country, submit pictures of vernacular structures to the data base to share with the world. Full credit is given for every picture submitted. For too long, African vernacular architecture has been a topic that has been both under-documented and, unfortunately, ignored. People say there needs to be documentation but yet nothing is done. Whether this is due to difficulties in obtaining funding or just apathy, the fact remains that very little data can be found online

malawi house with porch

House with porch in Malawi. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Architecture is as much of a part of a countries culture as is language, music or art. African vernacular architecture is disappearing. I witnessed that fact in Malawi. There are many reasons why vernacular materials and construction techniques are being abandoned in favor of western ones. One main reason is the lack of documentation, especially finding information on line.

I am hoping you could share the project with your readers, the more awareness, the better the chance to convince people to submit pictures to the data base. There is no other resource for African vernacular architecture like the data base: there is no organization gathering information, there is no active research, there is no voice for it. I will gladly answer any questions that you might have about the project.

Cheers,

Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Cutting Back on Glass

glass buildings

“How do we go about designing buildings today for tomorrow’s weather? As the world warms and extreme weather becomes more common, sustainable architecture is likely to mean one major casualty: glass. For decades glass has been everywhere, even in so-called “modern” or “sustainable” architecture such as London’s Gherkin. However in energy terms glass is extremely inefficient – it does little but leak heat on cold winter nights and turn buildings into greenhouses on summer days.”

“For example, the U-value (a measure of how much heat is lost through a given thickness) of triple glazing is around 1.0. However a simple cavity brick wall with a little bit of insulation in it is 0.35 – that is, three times lower – whereas well-insulated wall will have a U-value of just 0.1. So each metre square of glass, even if it is triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall. Cutting back on glass would be an easy win. Windows need to be sized, not glorified, and sized for a purpose: the view, or to provide natural light or air. Windows also need to be shaded. Many would argue that we need to re-invent the window, or the building. We need to build buildings with windows, rather than buildings that are one big window.”

Read more: Climate change means we can’t keep living (and working) in glass houses. Via Lloyd Alter.

What Can Be Learnt From a 17th Century Town

wattle and daub wall“In Plymouth, Massachusetts — the site of the first English colony in America — Matteo Brault spends his days living a 17th century life, along with dozens of other re-enactors on the modern-day Plimoth Plantation. Brault works full-time as a 17th-century style blacksmith, using traditional tools like a grindstone, hand-made nails and a large bellows for making the fire hot enough for forging iron and steel. He also helps build the traditional shelters.”

“The simplest homes in town were built using cratchets — natural forks in trees — as support for the ridgepole of the roof. The walls are built up with “wattle” — small sticks for the lattice structure — and “daub” — a mortar of clay, earth and grasses. Instead of using the traditional English lime wash to protect the walls, the colonists took advantage of the plentiful wood in the America and created clapboard siding by cleaving wood into thin boards. For the thatch roofs, large bundles of water reed or wheat straw are woven with a giant needle by two people working in tandem (one outside and one inside). “It’s like a giant quilt made of grass,” explains Brault, “which makes a water-tight roof that essentially acts as a giant sponge. It absorbs water and laps it off.”

Watch the video. Picture: a wattle and daub wall in Germany.