The design used to be based on the traditions of the past and recreating what had already been established as functional. With a larger world population than ever, and thus a higher population density in urban areas, the design must become intuitive in order to adapt to a city’s needs. When constructing buildings, designers will always take into account the surroundings of the area. Today, architecture training works hand in hand with computer-aided design courses in order to accurately plan design materials and processes, with a changing climate in mind.
Common Climatic Considerations
- Wind (surrounding a building and at pedestrian level)
- Susceptibility to earthquakes
- Temperature and human thermal comfort
- Climate change
- Precipitation (snow, ice, flooding)
Weather plays a major role in determining the safety of a building and how it will work in the context of the environment. How much sunlight will the building receive? High temperatures might influence a designer to choose low-emissivity windows. While low-E windows are more expensive than storm windows, they can reduce heat flow through the glass by half the amount. Is the building going to be in a cold climate, where there is a risk of ice forming on ledges and falling? In this case, it is crucial to know that an increased exterior surface area will collect more snow and ice, which is particularly dangerous for high-rise buildings. In hot-humid regions, climatic design considerations can be as simple as including shutters on windows. Not only do the shutters provide cool shade in the absence of air conditioning, but they also provide hurricane protection for the windows, a vulnerable point of a house’s structure.
Buildings are not the only structures which must take climate into consideration. Bridges are also affected by climate. For example, bridge stability can be compromised in hot conditions or floods. Excessive water and/or heat will soften the pavement, putting stress on the joints of the bridge and risking collapse.
It cannot be ignored that climate change will begin to play a major role in building and city design. Rising water levels mean the difference between building a beachside resort or not. The possibility of flooding and consequent soil erosion, or extreme temperatures, will affect the materials used and the design of structures in these environments.
Because concrete manufacturing and air conditioning are both contributing factors to climate change, designers have the duty of developing more sustainable materials which can withstand current and future climate change. Today’s engineering training will include methods to develop and utilize cost-efficient materials that can adapt to climate changes. For the sake of public safety, architectural and engineering technicians have a duty to be involved in determining the consequences of a changing climate on building design.