Towards an ecological architecture

Towards an ecological architecture

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We live in a time in which, more than others, there is concern for human and planetary well-being. This trend manifests itself from different areas: in medicine, in food, in agriculture, in psychotherapies, in education, etc., and incipiently in architecture.

Architecture also begins to want to be part of this consciousness, designing and building in closer contact with the Earth and with ourselves.

If we think of the universe as a series of interconnected phenomena, then each of our actions, even the smallest, affects everything else. In the same way, the construction of a building results in an interrelation with the environment and with the human being.

Traditionally, a building is conceived according to a function, a technique and certain aesthetic precepts. The object is inserted in a certain context, sometimes taking it into account and most of them as something autonomous, without any ties.

Sante Fe, United States. Architect: Steve Robinson.

Quantum physics has shown how the mechanistic world view and the disjointed specializations of modern science are destructive. Thinking each unit isolated from the other leads us to the fragmentation that exists in all orders of life. If, on the contrary, we consider our way of life and the environment in which we live as a global part of the ecosystem, not only humans, but humans together with plants, animals, etc., we will see that we are part of a whole network intertwined of different ecosystems, interactive, interdependent, regenerative and sustainable.

All the processes that are involved in them are part of an eco-cycle, in which the waste from one component becomes raw material for the next; cycles which in turn are connected to global cycles of energy, air and water. It is an intricate network, where every being of nature is interrelated: a change in one part can affect the system anywhere, even at a distance.

Becoming truly aware that we are part of a general ecosystem and that each action and thought of ours has an impact on the outside, makes us responsible in our actions towards ourselves, towards others and towards the planet.

Lizenbach, Germany.
Architect: Horst Schmitges

To think of a deeply ecological architecture is to think of the building as a living organism interacting in a certain ecosystem. For example: a person eats food and eliminates its waste, inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. If we understand architecture as a living organism, we see that: it needs materials for its construction that generate an environmental impact; consumes water and removes gray and black water; takes outside air and releases stale air; it needs energy: electricity, gas, coal, firewood and oil, and it eliminates heat, electromagnetic radiation, noise and pollution. These are the components of the energy cycle of a house. Assessing the impact of each one of them and designing it in such a way that the cycles regulate themselves in harmony with the cycles of nature, is our challenge.

Like integral medicine that places the emphasis on balancing the whole body, instead of curing the symptoms, we think that a building has to be part of this same proposal, generating a new architectural vision.

What is then an ecological architecture?

It is one that establishes a harmonious interrelation with Nature and with Man.

With Nature:

- Integrating with the local ecosystem: making use of local materials and techniques and taking advantage of all the favorable conditions of the climate and geography to achieve comfort in a natural way.

- Saving energy: making use of renewable energies and when necessary to resort to non-renewable ones, in the way that implies less waste.

- Recycling surpluses: so that the building closes its cycle, not in a linear but circular way (previously adopting a way of life so that said surpluses are minimal: what is a gray water treatment worth, if I consume, for example, a whole variety cleaning products for the modern quest for shine and "neatness").

House under construction in Navarro, Province of Buenos Aires, for the
Gaia Association. Construction coordinator: Arq. Mariana Bidart.

- Building with materials with low? Incorporated energy ?: by this we mean a reference value that is assigned to a certain product. This value shows us how much energy? Incorporates? in the extraction, processing, manufacturing and transportation process. Industrial societies have precisely created an extensive network of channels, where each process is autonomous from one another. This is called development. However, it is a highly polluting mode of production and a tremendous waste of energy. We are increasingly oblivious to the entire process that received that finished product that we received at home, we can know little about its quality, and the implications of each of its stages.

Taking these four items into account: integration into the local ecosystem, energy saving, recycling surpluses and energy incorporated into materials, leads us to a deep ecological approach towards nature.

With the man:

The new relationship with the human being is to think of the building not only as a response to a particular function and aesthetic, but also as a habitat for both the health of the body and the spirit.

We speak now of an architecture in harmonious relationship with man. A construction thought of as a living organism that respects natural laws will therefore be a healthy building for man. The same happens when we grow vegetables organically, we are not only respecting the Earth but we are not poisoning our body with chemicals.

A healthy building is one that is free of toxic elements, and is also flexible and has the necessary resources to respond to attacks as well as opportunities. In the same way that a healthy body is one that is absent from diseases and is also dynamic, it has vitality.

Take for example a wall, on the one hand it is the limit of the outside and the inside, and on the other, it regulates humidity, evaporation, the passage of heat and cold: it is a living element that "breathes".

If our second skin is the clothes we cover ourselves with, the third is these walls. And just as we choose natural fabrics and wool, free of synthetics, in the same way, by constructing this third skin with porous natural materials, without synthetic or chemical products, we give our habitat a superior quality: a healthy and "living" climate.

One of the big problems in construction today is the amount of toxic products that are used: formaldehydes, glues, synthetic paints, insulating foams, plastic materials, vapor barriers, they are some of those that give off vapors that are harmful to our health. This is exacerbated by airtight buildings due to mechanical air conditioning systems and increasingly impervious surfaces and openings. These gases and vapors remain concentrated in the environment, causing long-term illnesses such as allergies and infections in its inhabitants.

An architecture for the spirit creates beauty through spaces, shapes, lights, textures, colors, sounds and aromas, in intimate relationship with the people who inhabit the building and the functions they develop, to make them participate in a rewarding space.

Beauty is of enormous healing power. Surrounding ourselves with a beautiful environment, in union with nature, creates in us a kind of? Vivifying? Experience, contrary to what we can feel in one of the typical anonymous buildings, in which most of us have become accustomed to living. .

Thinking our habitat in this way is part of a global proposal, to live a life in harmony with the Earth, in close relationship with Nature, in the search for greater personal and planetary health.

When we keep in mind our connection with the earth, with the cycle, with life, do we become energized and feel part of everything that surrounds us? (Margo Adair).

Video: Green buildings are more than brick and mortar. Bryn Davidson. TEDxRenfrewCollingwood (June 2022).


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