Climatic Tropism In Buildings: Designing with Natural Response Cycles for Better Performance

By Thomas Spiegelhalter and Andrew Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As architects are increasingly challenged to address carbon neutrality and energy efficiency, buildings must be designed with a high degree of passive alignment and response to their surroundings. In seeking these solutions, designers and engineers have turned to the adjacent field of biology to discover climate appropriate solutions. Leading examples of biologically-inspired innovation in the architectural field have adapted building processes, form and materials to reflect natural traits. However, architects have a greater opportunity to optimize energy performance in buildings by analyzing the functional cycles of native biological systems.
This paper analyzes two precedents where natural cycles from the local plant communities were researched and applied to building systems design. The first example is a research thesis project that applied the metabolic and respiratory cycles of Southern California desert plants to reduce cooling loads in the design of a solar powered home. The second example is a built mixed-used project in Southwest Germany that applied the phototropic nature of regional plant life to the design of heat mitigation and energy harvesting systems. In both case studies, the basis for selecting the natural cycle, the application to architectural design, and the impacts to energy performance is explained.

Keywords: Net-Zero-Energy Building, Plus-Energy-Building, Carbon-Neutrality, Energy Efficiency, Life-Cycle, Native-Biological-Systems

The International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.43-55. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.946MB).

Prof. Thomas Spiegelhalter

Prof., Co-Director Environmental Technology Lab, R.A. ACE, LEED® AP, Environmental Systems, Sustainability and Design, Advanced Systems Integration, Florida International University, Miami, USA

Thomas Spiegelhalter has realized research demonstration work in Europe and the US in numerous contextual, solar, zero-fossil-energy, and low-energy building realizations projects; large-scale sustainability master planning, and redevelopment projects for abandoned post-industrial sites. Many of his completed projects have been published in International anthologies such in “Contemporary European Architects, Volume V, “1997, Building a New Millennium 1999–2000”, both Benedict Taschen Publisher, in “Solar Architecture for Europe, Publisher Birkhäuser, 1996, in” The Architectural Review, on “Ecology and Architecture,” in 1998, in “Architectural Record-” DESIGN VANGUARD AWARD 2003 or in the monograph “Adaptable Technologies-Le tecnologie adattabili nelle architetture di Thomas Spiegelhalter” by Angeli Publisher, Rome, in 2008. Spiegelhalter includes in his master planning, research, and consultation projects multiple sustainability measurement criteria systems such as the ISO 9000/14000 standards, IEA Solar City, the European Building Energy Performance Certificate Methodology, the World GBC, CASBEE, DNGB, Energy Star, Cascadia, and the USGBC LEED rating systems. Since 1990, he has worked with numerous EU and US Universities to research on multi-disciplinary ecological engineering projects. As a result of his 20 years of design and built work, professional consulting, awarded research, teaching, Spiegelhalter has received 54 prizes, awards, and honors in European and US sustainability competitions.

Andrew Lee

Green Building Consultant, LEED® AP, Seattle, WA, USA

Master in Building Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA Bachelor, School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, PA. During his undergraduate studies at Carnegie Mellon, Andrew focused his research on zero energy building technology while serving as the project leader for the Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon team. For his Master’s work at the University of Southern California, Andrew Lee explored the performance benefits of utilizing climate-adaptive building technology based on native biological systems.