Architecture and climate

R. de Dear and E. Linacre


Traditional architectural styles and techniques differ according to climate, but the contemporary "international style" yields a remarkable sameness everywhere. The ubiquitous steel and glass tower ignores its climatic context through a prodigious consumption of energy in heating and cooling. Even the climates within modern buildings are universally the same, because they are prescribed by identical standards and codes of practice, applied indiscriminately in all countries, irrespective of local climates (see Note 16.H).

However, a recent project of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) may remedy matters. Those involved in the project examined thermal comfort and indoor climatic data from 160 buildings in various climate zones on four continents. Statistical analysis then leads to a proposed modification to ASHRAE's international ‘comfort standard’, allowing for local conditions. If adopted, the new standard will see external climate become a significant dimension in architectural design again. It appears that passive or naturally ventilated buildings are feasible across a much broader range of climatic zones than was previously reckoned.