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Construction Ecology Module 10. Ecologic analogues and architecture Sim Van der Ryn and Rob Pena. Chapter 10 Continued.

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Construction ecology module 10 l.jpg

Construction EcologyModule 10

Ecologic analogues and architecture

Sim Van der Ryn and Rob Pena

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Chapter 10 Continued

  • Analogues: 1) One that bears an analogy to another. 2) An organ or structure similar in function to another kind of organism, but of dissimilar evolutionary origin. 3) A structural derivative of a parent compound.

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Architectural Metaphors

  • Ruskin: Architecture is Frozen Music

  • Sullivan: Form Follows Function

  • Van der Ryn and Pena: Architecture is Music, Form Follows Flow

    • Everything we perceive as fixed is actually in a state of flow and change, including the built environment.

  • Capra: Increasingly, all forms of culture are being subordinated to technology, and technological innovation, rather than the increase in human well-being, has become synonymous with progress.

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Architecture: Old and New

“Increasingly, all forms of culture are being subordinated to technology, and technological innovation, rather than the increase in human well-being, has become synonymous with progress.”

-Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life

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Old Architecture

  • Adaptation to place, climate, and use was a more important criteria for design than in previous eras.

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Modern Architecture

  • Building design becomes independent of its location

    • Due to the availability of fossil fuels and rapid urbanization, creation of artificial environments was possible and deemed necessary.

    • This, in turn, has contributed to environmental problems such as global climate change and unlimited use of natural resources.

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  • Van der Ryn and Pena define architecture as a dynamic adaptation to place, people, and pulse.

  • Authors feel that architecture currently does not respond effectively to these three important factors.

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Architecture / People

  • Authors feel that building users should participate in the design and construction process from the very beginning, rather than just being given a finished product.

  • Stakeholder involvement is key to successful design and commissioning.

    • 92% of typical company costs are associated with it’s personnel. Only 8% of company costs are associated with it’s facilities construction and operation .

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Architecture / People

  • Authors feel that “poorly designed buildings not only threaten the health of the environment, the erode human health and happiness”

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Natural Capital

  • Analogous to Financial and Human capital, but not recognized or used extensively in the Building Industry.

  • Defined as natural resources performing services such as purification of air and water during a natural process.

    • Photosynthesis is a simple example of maintaining oxygen and carbon dioxide balance.

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Ecological Footprint

  • An accounting of the resource flow and ecosystem services required to bring a particular designed product or system into being.

    • A yard of carpeting requires heat energy in manufacture, water and hydrocarbon feed-stocks as raw materials and manufacturing produces waste heat, CO2, water and waste fiber.

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Ecological Footprint

  • Computed per yard these various inputs and outputs equal the carpets metabolism or footprint.

  • This is analogous to the“Ecological Rucksack” principle as a measure of a materials impact.

  • 300 tons of ore = 1 gold ring

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    Earth In Mindby David Orr

    “Ecological design requires the ability to comprehend patterns that connect, which means getting beyond the boxes we call disciplines to see things in their ecological context.”

    -David Orr, Earth in Mind: Chapter 16, Designing Minds.

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    • Exploration of theories of spatial and temporal organizations of systems of humanity and nature.

    • Exploration of quantitative impacts and analysis of relationships and emergent properties.

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    Ecologic Design

    • Not an Architectural style such as Post-Modernist, but a scientific approach to solving serious environmental problems facing the world of which the built environment is a large part.

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    Ecological Goals

    • The stated goal of ecologic design is to create buildings and environments that are “Ecomorphic”

    • Ecomorphic building is defined as building where internal structure and systems mimic and integrate with the natural systems surrounding the building.

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    • Defined here as the conversion of energy.

    • Architectural design paradigm shift is necessary to incorporate sustainability.

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    Adaptive Strategies

    • Nature often makes the most efficient use of available resources.

      • Natural systems adapt to changing needs by reorganizing, altering the internal cycles of the system, with or without changing the entire system’s main function.

    • Van der Ryn and Pena argue that we need to do the same with the Built Environment.

    • Refer to Kay’s 4 design principles in Chapter 3, Box 3.3

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    Adaptation: Innovation and Change

    • Adaptation to place is a good starting point.

      • Use the natural assets that are present and incorporate them into the design.

    • Adaptive Design, as Nature demonstrates.

      • Designers can vary the location, orientation, juxtaposition, shape and surface treatment to minimize the amount of energy need to make the building fit our needs

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    Adaptation Example

    • Desert plants maximize their surface area to maximize the conversion of sunlight energy to useful energy and their waxy leaves protect them from excessive water loss.

    • Pueblo people in the desert South-west oriented their structures to optimize their exposure to winter sun while minimizing summer heat gain through insulated roofs

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    Buildings Organizing as they “Adapt”

    • Buildings are designed as fixed systems but the occupants will provide the most inputs that can adapt a building to fit their changing needs or wants

      • Energy

      • Materials

      • Information

      • Context

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    Metabolism of Resources: Classic Succession

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    The Self-Organization Process in SOHO Systems according to James Kay

    • SOHO (Self Organizing Hierarchical Open Systems)

      • Captures increasing resources (exergy and material)

      • Makes evermore effective use of the resources

      • Builds more structure

      • Enhances survivability (adaptive strategies)

    • Exhibit chaotic and catastrophic behavior

      • Similar to the pulsing stability discussed by Odum

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    Odum’s “The Strategy of Ecosystem Development” James Kay

    Pulse Stability

    • “A more or less regular but acute physical perturbation imposed from without can maintain an ecosystem at some intermediate point in the developmental sequence, resulting in , so to speak, a compromise between youth and maturity.”

      E.P. Odum

  • Tidal Estuaries or periodic forest fires are examples of this type of pulsing.

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    Pulsing System James Kay

    Perturbations such as tides or fires



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    Cities as Pulsing Systems James Kay

    • The historical pattern of cities has been a period of prosperity and growth followed by decline and eventual urban renewal

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    Building Metabolism James Kay

    • According to Frank Duffy, Modern buildings have 5-layered systems.

      • Site, The location of the building.

      • Structure, The framework of the building.

      • Services, Utilities such as water and electricity.

      • Skin, The interface between the building and the environment.

      • Stuff, Interior furnishings.

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    Building Metabolism James Kay

    • Duffy asserts that the systems wear out at differing rates. This means that improved building design would allow for dismantling and replacement or refurbishment of any single system without destroying any of the other systems.

    • DfE-Design for Environment.

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    EPA Initiative: DfE James Kay

    • Design for Environment incorporates modular design, allowing for replacement of worn or obsolete portions of the system, again without destroying other parts of the system or building.

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    Maximum Power Principle James Kay

    • Self-organization tends to develop network connections that use energies in feedback actions to aid the process of getting more resources or using them more efficiently.

    • See self-organization as defined by Odum in Chapter 2 page 60

    • See SOHO by Kay in Chapter 3 page 75

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    Examples of Superior Ecologic Design James Kay

    • Real Goods Solar Living Center, Hopeland, California

      • Building uses only on-site resources for lighting.

      • Construction was accomplished using locally available, environmentally benign materials.

      • Recycling of wastes generated by occupants is accomplished on-site.

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    Sawmill Neighborhood James Kay

    • Suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    • Community activism and participation helped this area return to it’s agrarian roots, and provided stewardship opportunities for the community.

    • Industrial waste remediation was accomplished in part by the new gardens and orchards.

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    De Anza Community College James Kay

    • Silicon Valley, California institution.

    • Design incorporated a high level user participation, in the form of several design charrettes.

    • Design was an ongoing effort with Architects and building occupants in regular contact.

    • Result was a building that satisfied a vast majority of the occupants.

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    Conclusions James Kay

    • With the building and construction sector using more energy, materials, and land than any other sector of human activity, it is imperative that we streamline the process and make it much more efficient.

    • The most powerful and necessary tool at present seems to be the inclusion of sustainability in the core curriculum of Architects and Engineers.