Is it possible to design houses to live in without hardly needing electricity?

More and more homes and communities of owners are adapting their homes to use renewable energyespecially with the installation of solar panels and, sometimes, wind turbines.

Passive houses, sustainable trend or real estate marketing?

Passive houses, sustainable trend or real estate marketing?

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However, in most cases these systems do not allow you to completely “unplug” from the network and it is necessary to hire an electricity supply. Few facilities can generate enough electricity to power large appliances, especially air conditioners.

According to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) of the United Nations, the sum of the buildings and the construction sector in the world consumes 36% of the energy.

Energy production, in turn, is responsible for three quarters of CO2 emissions. It is easy to understand that, if we manage to make buildings and construction consume less energy, we would be avoiding a good part of the emissions.

Instead of increasing the capacity of solar panels, it is possible to build houses that need less energy and, therefore, that can function without the need for mains electricity supply. This is the promise of bioclimatic architecture.

What is bioclimatic arquitecture

Traditional houses in Almeria bear little resemblance to those in Iceland. Flat roofs, small windows and white walls on one side, pointed gabled roofs, large windows and dark colors on the other. Thick walls in both cases. Traditional constructions are bioclimatic long before the word was invented, and we can learn a lot from them.

The bioclimatic architecture adapts the design of buildings and spaces to the local climate, in order to provide thermal comfort and save energy, taking advantage of environmental energy sources, such as the sun, rain and wind. In addition, this type of architecture aesthetically integrates with its surroundings, and uses natural and locally available materials.

Currently, bioclimatic architecture adds to all these resources the use of natural and recyclable materialslike stone and wood, and non-polluting.

In addition, it incorporates renewable energies, such as solar roofs, and high-tech materials, such as absorbent or reflective paints, liquid crystal windows that darken themselves, or materials with memory that repair themselves.

passive houses

It is possible to go a little further and not only adapt the house to the space, but use technology so that consumption is reduced to a minimum, and it is very easy to supply the necessary energy with renewable sources, such as a solar roof. This is the passive house concept.

This building standard was developed in Germany and Switzerland and sets limits on the amount of energy a house should need, especially for heating and cooling.

The Passive House Institute proposes that these expenses assume an annual maximum of 15 kWh per square meter per year. In total, the energy consumption of the house must not exceed 60 kWh/m2 per year, that is, 6,000 kWh for a house of 100 square meters. By comparison, the average home in Spain consumes about 10,000 kWh per year.

Passive houses have to guarantee thermal comfort both in winter and in summer, with a maximum of 10% of the hours above 25 °C. How is this achieved? Bioclimatic architecture offers several strategies:

  • Situation and design of the building: before even building, it is necessary to take into account the orientation of the building, its design, size, height, extension and even the color.
  • passive solar power: In cold climates, buildings should be more compact to reduce the area exposed to the elements, and have large windows facing the equator to make the most of the “greenhouse effect” of solar radiation.
  • Thermal isolation: The principles of efficient houses are applied here throughout the house envelope, walls, doors, windows and roofs. If thermal bridges and heat and cold losses are minimized, savings of up to 60% in heating and cooling can be generated.
  • Ventilation: in hot climates where there are currents, it is essential to take advantage of them to lower the temperature in summer, strategically placing the windows. In addition, a heat exchanger can be installed in the basement that provides cool air in summer and warm air in winter at almost no cost.
  • Vegetation: Green roofs, such as green roofs, pergolas or vines, allow the house to be protected from extreme heat. They also allow to collect rainwater.
  • moisture management: in hot climates, air currents can be used to control condensation and reduce ambient humidity, and at the same time take advantage of evaporation, either through plants or porous materials, to cool the environment.

A bioclimatic building is, by definition, cooler in summer, warmer in winter, less humid, less noisy and more pleasing to the eye. If solar, geothermal, aerothermal or wind energy is also added, the energy supply could be dispensed with. At current prices, it’s worth checking out.

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