Environmental Diversity in Architecture


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From the mids we joined forces to run a design studio at Cambridge that specifically combined the experiential with the environmental in architectural design projects. Simultaneously, a series of our doctoral and masters students at the Department of Architecture — many of whom are authors in this book Fisher, Merghani, Nikolopoulou, Parpairi, Potvin, Ramos and Sinou — began to explore the links between the measurable and the perceived environmental characteristics of architecture.

Along the way we came across sympathetic research and consultancy colleagues who were in a position to offer valuable perspectives that have been included in this book. In , Dean Hawkes identified the following challenge for the field of environmental research: Spon originally published in Kroner, W. In particular we thank Nick Baker, who as tutor and colleague provided much of the inspiration for this book, and Peter Carl who contributed to many hours of discussion, and read and supported our efforts with indefatigable enthusiasm.

Although not directly involved in this book, Dean Hawkes has given us tremendous motivation in his roles as academic and practitioner of environmentally responsive architecture, leading by example. To my parents — MAS. However, for most of his professional life he has worked in the field of environmental building science, originally teaching at NE London Polytechnic now UEL and, since , at the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge. During this time he has been involved with several national and European research projects on low-energy buildings, thermal comfort, daylighting and urban microclimate.

Prior to that, he taught at the University of Kentucky and spent two years in Rome as a Prix de Rome scholar. At Cambridge, he is a convenor of the graduate programme in the History and Philosophy of Architecture, which seeks to understand how architectural and urban order contribute to culture as a whole. He is also a teacher in the graduate design programme, where much of the material regarding Sustainable Urban Metabolism has been developed in collaboration with Dalibor Vesely, Phillip Meadowcroft and Koen Steemers.

His expertise and research addresses the field of architectural materials and building lifetimes. His teaching responsibilities include both technology and design courses taught to undergraduate and ix graduate students. He is currently engaged in several research projects investigating the use of innovative materials in constructional systems and is finishing a book, entitled Emergent Materials, which outlines the most important developments in materials for contemporary architecture.

He studied architecture and environmental design in Hull and Cambridge and has worked for a number of years in both Germany and England, where key projects have included the Leipzig Trade Fair with von Gerkan Marg and the recently completed Sophos Headquarters in Abingdon with Bennetts. He has a strong interest in the history and evolution of the building envelope and much of his practise experience has been in the design and construction of cladding. The problems of speech reinforcement in reverberant spaces have always been of interest and revolutionary systems have recently been completed for Eton College and Trinity College in Cambridge.

He also lectures regularly at the departments of architecture and engineering at the University of Cambridge. Recent hobbies include building Brio train tracks for honorary grandchildren and looking after strange percussion instruments for the University of Cambridge. His PhD degree, Cambridge University , discussed the thermal performance of traditional courtyard buildings in Sudan. His research interests include the environmental aspects of the built environment.

She is currently a lecturer at the University of Bath, prior to which she was a research associate at the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources in Greece and a lecturer at the Hellenic Open University. Her research interests concentrate on issues of urban microclimate, thermal comfort, bioclimatic design and rational use of energy in the built environment.

She has participated in various EU-funded research projects, has worked as an environmental consultant on architectural projects and competitions, and has contributed to numerous articles in refereed journals and international scientific conferences. She lectures at the Hellenic Open University postgraduate courses from onwards and at the Department of Architecture in the University of Thessaly — Recent research publications include: He returned to Canada and, from , his post-doctoral research has focused on northern urban microclimates.

He is currently Professor at Laval University School of Architecture where he teaches and conducts research on environmental design. His most recent research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada deals with the development of a global environmental comfort index integrating the human environmental adaptability theory. Ramos, BSArch, MPhil Marylis Ramos is an architect from the Philippines whose research interests include south-east Asian architecture, environmental design, urban planning and outdoor comfort.

Elizabeth has extensive experience of research at the intersection of social science, energy and environment and is co-author with Simon Guy of A Sociology of Energy, Buildings and the Environment and more recently of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience: Current projects include work on the future of comfort and on sustainable domestic technologies.

During her studies, she worked in two architectural practices and was involved in several projects in Greece. She has contributed in several international conferences, and currently teaches environment and construction at the Department of Architecture in Cambridge. In the studio courses that she delivers the acknowledgement and integration of environmental design issues is always given particular emphasis. Her research marries technical analysis with a more historical perspective. His main research interest deals with environmental performance related to built and urban form with respect to energy, light, ventilation, comfort and perception.

With over publications in the field of environmental design, his recent books include: In bringing together architectural research work that clearly identifies why environmental diversity is of significance and how it relates to design, it illuminates the potentially pivotal role played by environmental thinking at all stages of the design process.

It is perhaps not surprising that many contemporary approaches to design development prioritise spatial design, but with the intention of prompting debate on how design ambitions ought to be framed, the discussion presented here questions the degree to which spatial and environmental design can ever be separated. In addition it underlines why environmental design guidance needs to change to reflect the idea that diversity is a fundamental design criterion alongside comfort. Discussion of the environmental aspects of architecture and the way in which people interact with buildings is not as commonplace as some might assume — much recent architectural discourse has concentrated on aspects of construction or aesthetics, while the analysis and review of environmental strategy has received considerably less attention.

Despite the obvious significance of programmatic issues to design it is surprising how frequently either occupation patterns or the views of occupants have been ignored, as if commentary on how buildings are inhabited somehow diverts attention from the finished artefact that is the building itself. Buildings, however, are hardly finished without their inhabitants and the activities that they pursue inside or around them. This book takes the position that the dynamics of the architectural environment is a key aspect of good design, yet poorly understood.

An antidote to the misconceptions of optimum environmental performance or fixed criteria, it seeks to demonstrate why a richness of environmental variety is worth pursuing. Though concerned with environmental science, this book deliberately avoids providing a purely technical view.

A wide spectrum of approaches are offered that are mutually supportive rather than exclusive, with each section of the book demonstrating how an understanding of a particular context or environmental characteristic informs design in dynamic terms. The aim is not to overturn current thinking completely. Rather the book attempts to review some of the problematic ambiguities and unintended consequences of that thinking, and to indicate how the pursuit of diversity can help to reframe design issues and prompt new ways of exploring, testing and communicating design strategies.

The first section of the book introduces the issues related to environmental diversity from four perspectives: These chapters take broad and discursive views that provide a wider framework for the subsequent discussions. What follows is a combination of technical and theoretical chapters that are structured into sections related to the urban and intermediate scale, and the interior environment, before ending with a chapter related to design integration. The structure is thus as follows.

Environmental diversity in architecture Framework: Social, architectural and environmental convergence 3. The ambiguity of intentions 4. The reverential acoustic Interior: Environmental diversity and natural lighting strategies Exploring thermal comfort and spatial diversity Design: The tasks of defining and achieving structure and comfort have now frequently been handed over to technical experts, while aesthetics and spatial design have been made the responsibility of the architect. This suggests that despite the narrow physiological definition, thermal comfort is, at least in part, a psychological phenomenon open to influence by variables other than thermal.

Recent research has identified some of the reasons for the discrepancies between the laboratory-based comfort studies, which form the basis of both ASHRAE and ISO standards, and field-based research, which recognises the significance of behaviour, context and culture. It is thus all the more surprising that such standards are applied in all climates and for all building types. Melville in Moby Dick evocatively describes this apparently paradoxical state of affairs, where the presence of discomfort engenders a stronger sense of comfort: We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out-of-doors; indeed out of bedclothes too, seeing there was no fire in the room.

The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in the world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable anymore. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head is slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. Yet, neither the measurement of the thermal environment or the appreciation of thermal comfort is as simple as this in reality.

In addition, as Kwok nicely summarises, acclimatisation to particular conditions physiological adjustment may lead to changes in the definition of comfort, while the possibility of altering the environment behavioural adjustment or an expectation of a lack of comfort psychological adjustment may lead to a greater tolerance for temperature variation. In visual terms, the definition of comfort is complicated by the fact that our eyes adapt to the light that is available.

Our comfort depends on the quantity of light available and the relative brightness of the different areas of the visual field that are in view. We struggle to sew in too little light, but too much light for long periods can be tiring. We suffer from glare if our eyes are asked to adapt to too great a range of brightness at any one time. In aural terms, comfort is even more difficult to define. Apart from the kind of noise that is so loud it is literally deafening, or so rhythmically insistent, like a warning signal, that it cannot be ignored, it is only possible to discuss aural comfort from a relative point of view.

Silence in certain circumstances may be as disturbing as loud or distracting sound is in others, it all depends on what kinds of conditions are being sought. How we evaluate and communicate ideas about comfort is even more complicated. We are in fact conscious of a comfortable environment only when we know we have found it, or are aware that we have abandoned it, or when we are specifically questioned on the subject.

Usually we take it for granted — when we are comfortable we do not notice our environment at all. It is usually assumed without question that thermal comfort requires the thermal environment to be an even, stable temperature but, as Melville notes, to be actively aware that we are for the most part comfortable, paradoxically some part of us has to be uncomfortable.

The fact that we do not notice stability, and we do notice change or difference, means that the separate analysis and discussion of comfort and stimulation is not straightforward. Because we are constantly in league with our environment, if not always consciously so, in addition to seeking definitions of comfort, we need to take the issue of how we make ourselves comfortable more seriously, whether in thermal, visual or aural terms. Definitions of comfort in technical terms need to be illuminated by an examination of the issue from a different point of view: By reframing this issue it is to be hoped that a more nuanced articulation of the relationships between occupants and building ought to be possible, whether building-scale strategy, spatial design or local detail is in question.

In the short term and at room scale, the issue affects how users can interact with the building, whether by reconfiguring an element of the building, as say in opening a window, or by moving from one place to another within it, to create or find a more appropriate environment. The pursuit of adaptability is directly linked to the provision of diversity in as much as buildings whose environmental conditions vary to embrace the potential of the local site and climate are more likely to accommodate a range of uses with only relatively small-scale transformations of the building fabric.

But the question is more complex than this. It has been pointed out that more attention needs to be given to how building design may be made more indeterminate, that is to say, at the initial design stage, the range of possible future occupation patterns of a building needs to be taken more seriously. This is a matter of understanding how to devise structural and environmental strategies that make buildings environmentally adaptable, so that they can be made more specific to particular uses. This contrasts with providing conditions that are excessively flexible and, though apparently neutral, are actually more difficult to fine-tune sensibly in spatial or environmental terms.

In the longer term and at the urban scale, the drive to make cities more sustainable demands a more in-depth study of urban dynamics, that is to say of the structures and processes that have informed urban order and allowed cities to accommodate change. In acknowledging the three general areas of urban order — physical structure, environment and civic ideals — such a study of the urban metabolism ought to ensure better communication between all those concerned with the social, environmental and economic issues that are involved, and allow them to collectively identify and nurture more sustainable patterns of development that balance the need for permanence with the need for evolution while maintaining the appropriately diverse range of environmental conditions without which the urban ecosystem cannot prosper.

The characterisation of architectural experience As a diversity of environments is what buildings always provide, at least to some degree, how diversity can be a design criterion deserves exploration. Environmental diversity is a design characteristic that is closely related to our experience of architecture. The conscious shaping of diversity, that is to say, the conscious orchestration of the dynamic patterns of environmental variation, is made possible by an appreciation of its spatial and temporal aspects.

These fluctuations may be more or less wild, more or less sudden, depending on such issues as the nature of the space, its occupancy pattern, the form of construction and the climate. Thermal, visual and aural environments may thus be more or less stable temporally, and more or less even spatially. Before considering how these different degrees of diversity might be established, a brief review of the basic spatial, material, contextual and climatic parameters that allow different degrees of diversity is necessary.

We can feel thermal asymmetries when they are present, such as the strong radiant heat from an open fire in an otherwise cold room, or the pleasant breeze on a warm day, yet as long as they are in balance, comfort can be achieved. Such thermal conditions and fluctuations are directly influenced by architectural space and materiality in relation to solar orientation, wind direction and response to diurnal temperature fluctuations.

The basic form and configuration of openings will determine sunlight and air movement patterns, and the nature of the building materials will influence temperature patterns. Research has demonstrated that occupants sitting near windows express a greater degree of thermal comfort. This is in part because, assuming that windows and blinds are operable, they have more choice and can create a range of thermal conditions by opening the window to introduce cool air and increase air movement, or lowering blinds to provide shading from the sun.

It is thus not a question of providing an optimum and constant thermal environment but of providing adaptive opportunities through design to create thermal diversity. The links between architecture and thermal conditions are evident. The dynamics of a thermal environment, and opportunities to adapt those conditions, demonstrate the notion of temporal diversity in relation to design.

The cathedral environment is a case in point, where a thermally heavy building envelope with small openings results in relatively constant internal thermal conditions. As temperatures outdoors fluctuate up and down, reaching a peak during the early afternoon, the experience of entering the relatively cool interior of the cathedral plays a key part in altering the state of mind of the visitor.

They have left behind the fluctuations of the external conditions — and the hubbub of daily life — and enter a cool, stable environment for a more contemplative experience. This spatial contrast in thermal environments demonstrates again how diversity relates to design, which we will refer to as spatial diversity. But even in the outdoor urban context there are diverse conditions: Biological and psychological research has shown that a diverse environment — one that presents the greatest degree of choice and widest range of conditions — is highly desirable.

The aural environment There is no longer any interest in producing rooms with differential acoustical effects — they all sound alike. Yet the ordinary human being still enjoys variety, including variety of sound. The combination of such characteristics is determined by architecture and establishes the soundscape of our environment that in turn affects our perception of the architecture.

Thus, the hushed and reverberant environment of a church is appropriate for quiet contemplation and reverence, and contrasts with the noise of daily life in the piazza outside. This distinction is reinforced by thermal and luminous transitions to create an experience of architecture that goes beyond the spatial or formal. Similar contrasts can be created for concert halls, where the chatter of voices in a hard, voluminous foyer replaces the urban noise, before entering the acoustically absorbent interior of the auditorium.

From the covered carriage entrance the visitor came into a marble hall which resounded with the rattle of his sidearms … Now came a series of rooms with more intimate and musical tones — a large dining room acoustically adapted for table music, a salon with silkor damask-panelled walls which absorbed sound and shortened reverberations, and wooden dadoes which gave the right resonance for chamber music.

One might extend the argument by suggesting that the anticipation of entering the marble hall or satin-lined boudoir will influence perception and behaviour. Furthermore, the sound of the carriage wheels on the gravel drive and clattering footsteps in the hall will resonate and be heard deep into the house. Unlike thermal or visual perception, where a space can be sensed as cool or warm and dark or light, we hear the architecture only because we activate it by the noise we introduce — the footsteps or the spinet.

And yet, noise is formally defined as unwanted sound. The noise of the city, or noise in a bar, is part of our expectation and we would find it curious if not disconcerting not to hear it. Furthermore, noise in an office or restaurant provides the essential masking to create a sense of privacy, whereas very quiet conditions make every word of a conversation audible to others.

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The booth is on the edge of a voluminous, reverberant dining room that creates an acoustic environment of background noise, yet the proximity between diners and adjacent surfaces in the booth help to make a private conversation comfortable. The simple presence of a nearby, hard surface improves the speech intelligibility in the midst of a bustling restaurant. Clearly, too much background noise will erode speech intelligibility, so an appropriate balance needs to be struck.

The level of background noise becomes a conscious environmental design decision related to the vibrancy that is intended. Because reverberation is a key parameter that determines noise level, and is a function of room volume and absorption characteristics of surfaces, it is clear that the choices of architectural characteristics related to space and materials are critical. The noise that people create can be considered either as wanted or unwanted, depending on the context: Thus the noise source, as well as its level, are significant variables.

The modern obsession with prescriptive values and precision can lead to environments that are strictly isolated, offering no sense of anticipation or connectedness. An example is music practice rooms, where a slight relaxation in sound insulation level between room and corridor can offer the user of the building auditory glimpses into the use of the building: This kind of graduation of sound, or connectedness between spaces of acoustic diversity, makes choices perceptible, makes the building audible. In generic terms, people express a preference for natural sounds birds, water, etc.

A fountain in a square can usefully mask unwelcome traffic noise by the more welcome sound of splashing water. If consciously designed such acoustic diversity can be particularly effective, for example where the sound of water is a transient experience between a noisy urban environment and the more peaceful conditions of a museum or an office foyer. The visual environment Light is not perceptible without form — even the diaphanous form of swirling smoke — to reflect it.

Conversely form is not perceptible without light to reveal it, at least not to our vision, on which we rely to provide the majority of our information about our surroundings. The physical context affects the quantity and character of light that reaches the building, but the diversity of the visual environment is also dependent on the climate, in as much as this dictates the dynamics of natural light available.

As a constantly varying source, in both quality and quantity, natural light has an advantage over all artificial sources but candlelight, in that it changes with cloud cover and the time of day or season. Aside from cutting energy costs, research has established that the use of daylight is generally preferred for this reason. Whether the available light is predominantly diffuse skylight or direct shadow-casting sunlight makes a significant difference to the character of a naturally lit interior, with more diffuse light tending to produce more softly lit, less harshly modelled, less spatially dynamic visual environments and more direct light having the reverse effect.

At a basic level it is, of course, the diversity in levels of brightness across the visual field that allows us to see our surroundings, but the careful handling of visual diversity by designers is important for a number of reasons. At a local level, research has confirmed that in many situations the creation of visual interest helps to establish appropriate conditions for many different activities. Contrasts in brightness between background and task can help to focus attention on a particular visual task or help to create particular territories within a space, while distinctive contrasts in colour can allow particular objects or surfaces to recede or become more visually prominent.

At the scale of the building, visual diversity may be consciously deployed to create thresholds or transitions in light, to engender spatial drama or to guide movement. While each deserves individual attention, it is hoped that an attempt to outline visual diversity will throw light on how the broad pursuit of environmental diversity ought to inform design.

The spectrum of possible levels of visual diversity ranges from those environments that are most stable and most even and that offer little visual contrast, to those that are least stable, least even and visually complex. Intermediate conditions might be more dispassionately described as safe or neutral, or more evocatively described with adjectives like measured, fresh or aqueous.

Designing with diversity in mind should not mean that spaces with low diversity are never possible or that spaces with high diversity are introduced without question. While it is obvious that some activities are definitely enhanced by calmness as opposed to distraction, and vice versa, how any individual space contributes to the character of environmental sequences across space and time needs to be carefully considered. Either a calm or a complex space may be able to provide interest to a sequence of spaces through contrast.

To put this another way, at the building scale the provision of a greater level of diversity and the provision of an appropriately stimulating environment are not always the same thing. Individual spaces may have low diversity but nevertheless contribute to the spatial diversity of the whole in a way that can be experienced by those moving through the building.

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It is the orchestration of diversity at the building or landscape scale that needs to take into account all the experiential implications of any environmental strategy: In establishing the kind of environment that would not usually be noticed, these are the conditions with which we are familiar and thus comfortable, and which tend to allow architecture to be read as neutral, as the background. The idea that safe, comfortable environmental strategies lie somewhere in the middle range of an index of diversity and that potentially more memorable, more striking environments lie at either end should not be surprising.

In prompting greater focus on how potentially complex patterns of environmental variation can be structured, indices of diversity ought to help designers grasp the degree to which any particular strategy needs to differ from normal conditions more firmly, that is to say, how and why it should make more of a claim on attention.

They have the 14 STEANE AND STEEMERS additional benefit of not allowing comfort and stimulation to be seen as polar opposites, instead helping to underline the extent to which the conditions of comfort can provide stimulation and the reverse, whether understood from the perspective of spatial or building-scale environmental strategy. Environmental diversity can be discussed in at least two ways: Spatial diversity relates to the presence of a range of environmental conditions that can be formally structured as part of a sequence.

The transitions between such spaces — whether gradual or sharp — will influence our perception of diversity and the opportunity to choose or anticipate contrasting conditions. This connectedness of contrasting environments is therefore a key characteristic that determines the perceived spatial diversity.


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One might thus propose that increased connectedness and contrasts result in greater diversity, whereas a lack in either connectedness or contrast results in low diversity. Temporal diversity relates to a specific place, interior or urban, and how it changes or is changed over time. Thus a space can be stable or unstable in environmental terms, where instability results in greater temporal environmental diversity. Temporal diversity will clearly have an impact on spatial diversity, as contrasts between spaces will change over time.

Thermally a space is stable when thermally massive like a cave as compared with a lightweight glasshouse. Acoustically a space is diverse if it is reverberant and open, and stable when absorptive and sealed. A space is visually diverse if finishes are matt and no direct light is available, as opposed to a room with glossy surfaces and where sunlight is allowed to enter. Similarly, a space that offers significant adaptive opportunities to the user can be defined as environmentally diverse.

At a finer scale, spatial diversity can occur within a larger space: An example of this is how progress through a space can change our visual perception of it: Architecture is frozen music? Architecture is not produced simply by adding plans and sections to elevations, it is something else and something more. It is impossible to explain precisely what it is — its limits are by no means well-defined. On the whole, art should not be explained; it must be experienced.

Such parallels can be very illuminating yet they may also obscure key insights into the nature of the discipline. Like music, architecture orders experience. Yet while sequence, repetition, tempo or phrasing, all have architectural equivalents that support the basic analogy, the emphasis on the idea that, in contrast to music, architecture is stable or silent, is mistaken. This kind of analogy assumes that architecture is fundamentally an artefact, a construction.

It is equally valid after all to suggest that architecture is the shaping of shelter, the provision of particular environments. When considered in these terms, architecture is never frozen. It is fundamentally dynamic, changing more or less slowly, more or less quickly, with alterations in use or the climatic and physical context. It is this dynamic quality of the built environment that stimulates our senses, yet it is rarely anticipated or understood in the design process due to an emphasis on the geometric and physical aspects of design that are represented by the kind of architectural drawings to which Rasmussen refers.

As Rasmussen also points out, it is not easy to explain either what architecture is or how architectural decisions are arrived at without taking architectural experience seriously.


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  • It is the order of this dynamic behaviour, the measurement of experience, that this research seeks to illuminate. Bioclimatic approach to architectural regionalism , Princeton: More ordinarily, the spectre of bland uniformity is, time and again, set against the thrill of difference, the drama of sensation and the delight of contrast. On the other hand, there is an equally compelling tradition of optimisation, of organising and controlling variation with the entirely reasonable aim of producing structures that satisfy as many of their users as possible.

    Indeed, this ambition is central to the very project of architecture. There are, of course, multiple dimensions of variety and standardisation and many points of reference, perspective and value. Rather than unpicking these issues in the abstract, I want to explore elements of this ambivalence with reference to the social and architectural construction of the indoor environment. This is a good case to take on a number of counts. Since most buildings are designed to cater for more than one person, the challenge of managing such variation is unavoidable. In this chapter I argue that efforts to respond to the first of these dimensions, that is to cope with physiological differences between people, have had the seemingly paradoxical effect of eroding differences at the level of individual and cultural experience.

    This is perhaps to be expected. After all, people are full of contradictions, architecture is full of compromises and in this case there really are competing approaches. More than that, such histories are profoundly marked by the built environment itself. This dynamic is of some significance for the global environment.

    For reasons detailed below, the past century has witnessed an impressive but largely unnoticed convergence of indoor environmental conditions around the world. Local and seasonal differences are being ironed out through widespread reliance on standardised materials, technologies, design guides and building codes. This raises important questions. Can architecture help to turn back the clock of global environmental change? Is it possible, through design, to deliberately re-engineer more diverse and so less resourceintensive cultural expectations of comfort? This is controversial territory but it is territory around which discussion of standardisation and diversity inevitably revolves.

    Human variation constitutes the basic starting point for a dominant family of ideas about thermal comfort. The so-called heat balance model describes the physical relationship between a person and his or her environment. As Brager and de Dear explain: Heat balance models view the person as a passive recipient of thermal stimuli and are premised on the assumption that the effects of a given thermal environment are mediated exclusively by the physics of heat and mass exchanges between body and environment.

    Brager and de Dear In this analysis, the meaning of comfort is constant here defined as thermal neutrality: The second family of ideas takes comfort to be a continual achievement, a question of sensation and meaning and, as such, not a uniformly specifiable state of affairs. If there is any one constant, it is the need for variety, that being the spice of life.

    Picking up this theme and developing it in an unashamedly romantic manner, Heschong equates thermal variation in architecture with delight. She argues that thermal pleasure is a quality of changing experience. Less dramatically, heating technologies like the traditional stove afford their users a variety of thermal possibilities: Such to-ing and fro-ing is simply not an option for those who inhabit mechanically controlled environments designed to deliver uniform conditions throughout.

    In suggesting that standard conditions of this kind constitute a form of sensory deprivation, Heschong subscribes to a distinctive theory of comfort in which difference within limits is of the essence. She bases her account of thermal delight on an assortment of cultural evidence — on what people say about what they enjoy — and on a more ideological opposition to standardisation.

    She writes as follows: However, individual experience is not taken to be random or idiosyncratic for, in developing her argument, Heschong acknowledges patterns of cultural diversity. As she explains, the process of achieving comfort is a social one and one that societies have traditionally managed in significantly different ways. She refers, for instance, to the Greek tradition of an evening promenade, a collective event in which families and friends stroll together enjoying the relative cool after the heat of the day.

    Compared with these arrangements, the development and widespread use of mechanical heating and cooling systems tends to disrupt existing traditions and ways of life and in the process engender new, more homogenous concepts of comfort. For commentators like Heschong, trends of this kind represent a loss of meaning and symbolic togetherness as well as a diminution of personal physiological satisfaction. Whether one agrees with this judgement or not, the basic proposition is that understandings of comfort are the outcome of the culturally and historically specific means of its achievement.

    As a result, its specification is both contingent and inherently malleable. In practice, these three aspects of difference — the physiological, the experiential and the social — have distinctive practical consequences for the design and management of the indoor environment. Coping with difference The fact that people, seen as thermal-biological systems, vary so widely has represented something of a problem for architects, engineers and manufacturers of heating and cooling systems.

    Subsequent efforts to define what these needs really are embody a range of methodological, philosophical and commercial preoccupations, some of which are outlined below. Should engineers aim to replicate idealised environments like those of a fine spring day in the mountains or was the more perfect climate that of a summer afternoon by the seaside? As Cooper explains, this kind of definitional instability was decidedly unhelpful in constructing markets for the fledgling air-conditioning industry.

    Fortunately, nature also provided a less ambiguous point of reference. By turning from the analysis of a multiplicity of natural environments to the detailed study of human physiology, scientists employed in the research laboratory of the American Society of Heating and Ventilation Engineers sought to specify key parameters like those of temperature, humidity and air movement, and to thereby define human comfort precisely and in quantitative terms.

    It is perhaps no accident that the science of physiology became the science of comfort or that highly controlled laboratory studies continue to provide the evidence on which current understandings depend. In addition, this process of statistical optimisation depends upon the capacity to modify relevant variables at will. This is relevant, for the ability to implement and act on the resulting conclusions presumes a corresponding measure of mechanical control. Gail Cooper spells out the commercial implications as follows: When natural climate was the ideal, mechanical systems sometimes fell short; but when quantitative standards of human comfort became the measure, natural climate was found wanting.

    When no town could deliver an ideal climate, all towns became potential markets for air conditioning.

    Environmental Diversity in Architecture

    Cultural differences are simply overruled by this model, a feature that is of positive value in constructing a truly global market for a uniquely standardised concept of what people want. As described above, significant scientific and commercial resources have been invested in determining and reproducing conditions of comfort, routinely defined as a steady physiological state. The implication here is that the physiological and psychological quest for comfort should continue and should take account of more variables, incorporating or at least testing the idea that people have a biological need to experience different conditions and exploring the possibility that adaptation is normal and is, in fact, part of being comfortable.

    Such a route leads toward a science of variation and a different style of optimisation compared to that with which we have become accustomed I will have more to say about the practical and commercial implications of such a strategy later. There are, however, other more relativistic ways of conceptualising the issue. Once defined as an attribute for example, of chairs, clothes, food or indoor environments , it became possible to debate degrees and qualities of comfort in a manner that was previously inconceivable.

    Since the seventeenth century, and across different cultures, specific interpretations of what those qualities are have proved to be impressively malleable. Those who have studied thermal comfort in the field as opposed to the laboratory have, for instance, found that people report being comfortable under remarkably different conditions and under conditions that fall way beyond the margins of physiologically derived comfort zones.

    This sort of evidence begs what is at heart a sociological question, namely, how are we to understand the reinvention of comfort defined as a collective socio-cultural construct. This is an especially relevant task if, as seems to be the case, conventions are converging around the world and are doing so in ways that are ultimately unsustainable.

    I take this idea further in the next section on constructing convergence. For example, the circular openings in a bottle bank are ideal for admitting empty bottles and jars but awkward if one wants to dispose of a sheet of glass de Laat Though resistance is still possible, users are more or less obliged to follow the script this object provides. In describing the intersection of social and technical expectation, Michael Humphreys subscribes to just such a view. He writes as follows: If buildings script and thereby construct needs, what determines the specification of requirement?

    Of all possible interpretations of comfort how is it that one definition becomes the norm? And why is it that contemporary definitions foster the reproduction of uniform conditions around the world? As observed above, the standardising science of comfort has proved crucial in creating a global market for air-conditioning and for other forms of mechanical heating and cooling. This far, such interests have favoured the cultural and material reproduction of standardised definitions of comfort and the construction of correspondingly standardised markets.

    However, that need not remain the case. At a stretch, one might even imagine a future in which environmental pressures are such that designers and research scientists are encouraged to study and emulate past cultures of comfort, perhaps reinventing the siesta or rediscovering culturally specific sociotechnical systems for managing the indoor environment.

    The point here is that the future of comfort is open: Whether these routes veer in the direction of standardisation and homogeneity or whether they encompass or reinvent cultural diversity depends, I suggest, not on the more precise understanding of human biology but on the political economy of construction.

    Conclusions In drawing this chapter to a close I want to highlight three features. When embodied in the fabric of the built environment, these standardising scientific conclusions have acquired a new form of social significance. In determining what is provided as normal, and thus what people become accustomed to, they have reformulated social expectations and led, in the longer run, to a commonality of global experience and a measure of cultural convergence.

    This is not an especially unusual example. In this case, as in many others, optimising strategies for coping with variety have the, perhaps unintended, consequence of eroding social and cultural diversity. Second, I have noted that there are commercial as well as scientific pressures to pursue the route of averaging and optimising.

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    Although money can be made of variety — indeed consumer culture is replete with examples of increasingly precise distinctions and details of differentiation — the first step in commodifying the indoor climate has been to establish deficiency and need by specifying an ideal that can only be achieved through reliance on mechanical systems of heating and cooling.

    The next step may be one of developing a more tailored or customised approach to indoor environmental management. This might well be the perfect design solution. By offering occupants the chance to determine their own microclimates, designers place responsibility for the specification of comfort as well as for sustainability and energy consumption firmly in the hands of the user.

    In thinking this through it is clear that the built environment does more than meet or respond to pre-existing needs. This begs the further question of how architectural conventions are themselves shaped and formed. In this chapter I have highlighted the importance of particular forms of scientific enquiry and drawn attention to the political and economic significance of such work in framing concepts of comfort. Consistent with this line of argument, it is unlikely that the political economy of comfort will remain the same. Medical Knowledge in Britain in the 20th Century, Cambridge: Engineers and the Controlled Environment, —, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    John Hopkins University Press. Oxford Centre for Sustainable Development. Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers. Chalmers University of Technology. Research into sustainability has opened a view of urban and architectural processes that are dynamic in nature, of considerable complexity of scale and inter-relatedness, and often with very long-term consequences. Moreover, the moral implications of sustainability have made of the environmental sciences a discipline capable of illuminating the nature of the whole, without, however, considering themselves to be moral disciplines.

    This chapter seeks to clarify the resulting ambiguity — the difference between moral or political intentions and technical objectives — by, first, establishing the limits of the science—humanities contest in which this issue is usually framed, and then by concentrating upon what can be learned from practice. The main purpose of this chapter is to attempt to discover what is required to turn the ambiguity into an opportunity. One may think of a city as the topographic distribution of culture and energy use.

    Moreover, it would seem obvious that energy is expended for the sake of 31 culture, although we will see shortly that this is obscure in current practice. The concern for sustainability has made energy use part of moral concern. This creates an interesting and potentially fruitful ambiguity: The ambiguity turns on the meaning of good in moral or political discourse and in that of technical discourse. One might refine this with regard to the difference between intentions and objectives. It may be a cultural intention, for example, to build a library because it is believed that knowledge, wisdom and creative citizenship go together.

    For an environmental scientist, this intention must be translated into an objective, such as comfort, which can be specified in the terms of the physical sciences. This effort is generally conducted at the epistemological level, according to protocols having their source in Descartes. The wealth of knowledge produced according to these protocols is reckoned to be among the achievements of culture — which comprises centuries of cultural evolution that is, design and production of a computer chip does not happen ab nihilo, but requires the Industrial Revolution, as well as all its research, equipment, projects, wars, etc.

    At present, there is no single science of reality. The epistemological protocols are notoriously weakest for interpretation of the ontological and ethical questions that comprise the highest, or deepest, dimensions of human culture. Cultural intentions respond to always-open claims upon the possibilities freedom of culture and cannot be framed and made into projects for accomplishment, objectives, after the fashion of technological projects it is precisely the defect of the post-Enlightenment utopia, or of certain totalitarian regimes, to attempt to do so.

    Does this practical imagination represent a provisional fudge arising from expediency, 32 CARL or does it harbour a wisdom that deserves to be acknowledged? Clarification of this question will be the task of this chapter. However, we cannot start from scratch, nor is there available an obvious process of refinement of the given state of affairs. A law of science is expected to be an absolute thing even if, within pure research, it is always held to be a hypothesis , innocent of cultural differences or concrete circumstances.

    By contrast, a legal law is wholly dependent upon particular people in concrete circumstances in history, both in its formulation and its interpretation a court of law is concerned with mitigating circumstances, up to and including acquittal. Practical judgements in design are less like the application of the laws of science than the interpretation of legal laws. Moreover, the unification of the laws of science is currently expected to be systematic in character, probably mathematical; whereas the universality of lawfulness in culture would be something like the ancient notion of cosmic justice.

    Since Cartesian epistemology admits only what can be known immanently, all consideration of transcendence, including that of cosmic justice, cannot attract serious attention or is left to the speculation of philosophers, theologians and artists. Accordingly, one must return to the Platonic tradition to see a proper exploration of the possible relatedness between cosmic justice and mathematics or geometry, where, however, a clear distinction is made between these disciplines as a preparatory study to dialectic and these disciplines as deployed in, for example, the calculations of measures and quantities in building Plato, Republic c—e and Philebus 57a—59e.

    Nonetheless, the adherence to a completely immanent understanding has created interesting ambiguities, which testify to a smuggled, unacknowledged experience of transcendence. That is, the obligatory element in nature, understood in scientific terms, displays only efficiencies, not moralities. Here we have three choices. We could adopt the position that moralities are species of efficiency, after the fashion of the eighteenth-century physiologues and, more recently, evolutionary biology or behaviourist psychology. Despite the achievements of these disciplines, mostly in the descriptive domain, they cannot account for themselves, much less the more ambiguous or profound dimensions of human creativity.

    Second, we could launch a philosophical inquiry, rooted in ontology or in ethics, which, however, is methodologically beyond the environmental sciences to accept. Whatever might emerge from a philosophical treatment of the dialogue between aesthetics and technics, in the practical arena it tends to be a conflict. The Architecture of Happiness Alain de Botton. Analysing Architecture Simon Unwin. Louis Kahn Michael Bell.

    Thinking Architecture Peter Zumthor. Experiencing Architecture Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Interior Design Course Tomris Tangaz. Atlas of Emotion Giuliana Bruno. Buildings Must Die Stephen Cairns. Ant Farm Felicity D. Drawing for Architecture Leon Krier. Design Process in Architecture: From Concept to Completion Geoffrey Makstutis. Conditional Design Anthony Di Mari. Hollow Land Eyal Weizman.

    Operative Design Anthony Di Mari. The Lego Architect Tom Alphin.

    The Lawrence Legacy: Challenging Racism and Celebrating Diversity in Architecture

    Sound Materials Tyler Adams. The Aesthetics of Architecture Roger Scruton. A Question of Qualities Jeffrey Kipnis. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture Robert Venturi. Rhythm in Architecture Moisei Ginzburg. Organic Cinema Thorsten Botz-Bornstein. Colour and Light Ulf Klaren. The Good Life Inaki Abalos. The Destruction of Memory Robert Bevan.

    Letters to a Young Architect Christopher Benninger. Design with Climate Victor Olgyay. Japan-ness in Architecture David B. The Dissertation Iain Borden. Living the Boundary Francesco Cacciatore. Architectural Design Jane Anderson. Slow Manifesto Clare Jacobson. Modern Architecture Since William J. Ethics for Architects Thomas Fisher.

    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture
    Environmental Diversity in Architecture Environmental Diversity in Architecture

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