Environmental Building

Joana Carla Soares Gonçalves , Klaus Bode

More than an architecture book: a new concept in buildings. This is the description of Environmental building, which presents the contribution of 42 architects, engineers and researches and invites the reader to think critically about questions like performance, quality and environmental impact.

Divides in five parts, this book approaches quality and constructive technologies concepts, discusses the urban environment and the project processes, brings analyses of real buildings and deepens the reflections about environmental challenges and the market forces.

In 600 pages filled with images, drawings and schemas that allow a profound study on buildings such as the London Olympics Velodrome, the One Airport Square office building, in Ghana Republic, or the Commerzbank in Germany – icons of worldwide architecture – and others innovative projects that counted with the direct participation of this book’s authors.

Original title
Edifício ambiental
Year of publication

About the authors

Joana Carla Soares Gonçalves

Joana Carla Soares Gonçalves is graduated in Architecture and Urbanism by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), has a masters in Environment and Energy by the London Architectural Association Graduate School and Doctorate in Architecture and Urbanism by the University of São Paulo (USP). Currently is a visiting professor in the graduate program of Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment from University of Westminster. Has experience in Environment Adequacy, acting mainly in bioclimatic architecture, environmental comfort and energetic efficiency.

Author's CV.

Klaus Bode

Klaus Bode is graduated in Building Engineering by the University of Bath, is a founding partner in BDSP Partnership, a London-based environmental engineering firm with offices in London, Lisbon and Belgrade and projects in many countries and Board Director at ChapmanBDSP Limited. He was project engineer on Foster+Partners’ Commerzbank and on Rogers/Piano’s Potsdamer Platz developments in Berlin and worked with Hopkins Architects on the Velodrome for the London Olympics 2012.

Part 1 – Architecture, environment and technology

1 Adaptation architecture

1.1 Environmental comfort and the possibilities of adaptive model

1.2 Preliminary considerations about the project of the environmental building

1.3 Architectural research for the environmentally sustainable design


2 Natural ventilation in office buildings: myth or reality?

2.1 The climate influence

2.2 Architectural discussion

2.3 Natural ventilation in tall buildings

2.4 Mixed mode: interaction between natural ventilation and building systems

2.5 Final considerations


3 Thermic performance in work environments in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

3.1 Natural ventilation and the design of windows for work environments in São Paulo

3.2 Natural ventilation and the thermic mass: quantitative and qualitative aspects of performance in office buildings in Rio de Janeiro


4 The technology of building systems

4.1 Preliminary considerations: principles for an environmental approach

4.2 Fundaments for acclimatization energetic efficiency

4.3 Final considerations


5 Material selection and high environmental performance buildings

5.1 The numbers of construction industry and the buildings part

5.2 Importance and challenges for considering constructions materials for evaluation of impacts in the buildings lifespan

5.3 What defines a high environmental performance building from the materials perspective

5.4 Materials impacts estimative in buildings lifespan

5.5 Material ecoeficiency indicators for Brazilian buildings

5.6 Conclusion



Part 2 – The urban environment and the buildings

6 The urban climate and the built environment

6.1 Urban climate: approaches, scales and energy inventory in urban areas

6.2 Effects or urban design on the urban microclimate and buildings

6.3 Building effects on the urban microclimate

6.4 Final considerations


7 Tall buildings and the urban form

7.1 The impact of urban canyons in buildings environmental performance

7.2 Transbordering: editing the typical São Paulo tall buildings ground floor


8 The cities’ economy: an economist perspective over the advantages of urban densification beyond the environmental performance

8.1 The benefits of agglomerations (scale gains)

8.2 The costs of urban agglomerations



Part 3 – The design process

9 Integrated design and the computer simulation of environmental performance (design examples)

9.1 The 2012 London Olympics Velodrome: a synthesis between architecture and technology of building systems

9.2 One Airport Square, office building in Republic of Ghana, Africa: environmental potential of concrete architecture

9.3 Toulouse School of Economics (TSE): architecture of transitional spaces for climate mediation


10 Fundaments of energetic simulation in buildings

10.1 Model building

10.2 Future tendencies

10.3 Final considerations


11 Performance evaluation, computer simulation and the architectural design

11.1 The environmental performance of architectural strategies

11.2 The impact of digital technology in the design process: methodological aspects

11.3 The generative potential of environmental criteria

11.4 Final considerations


12 High-low generative architectural: principles and applications

12.1 Parametric design

12.2 The high-low paradigm

12.3 Design experiences

12.4 Final considerations


13 Analytical calculation simplified for thermic comfort evaluation related to use of natural ventilation in industrial sheds

13.1 Occupational safety and health

13.2 Ventilation resources

13.3 Industrial sheds with little interior heat dissipation

13.4 Industrial sheds with big interior heat dissipation

13.5 Final considerations



Part 4 – Learning with existent buildings

14 Buildings in use: the environmental performance of icons of a generation

14.1 The Commerzbank headquarter in Frankfurt am Main, Germany: icon of energetic efficiency and environmental quality in office buildings

14.2 National Assembly for Wales: the building design and occupation inspired in principles of environmental performance and quality


15 The pioneer technology in evaporative cooling: lessons of North American buildings, a study of post-occupational evaluation

15.1 Buildings, climate and cooling strategy

15.2 The users’ perception

15.3 Post-occupational evaluation: results summary


16 Buildings rehabilitation

16.1 Reasons for building rehabilitation

16.2 General guidelines for environmental and energetic building requalification


17 The European context of building requalification

17.1 More comfort and less energy in housing building renovations in Mediterranean climates

17.2 The Spanish case: environmental rehabilitation of housing buildings in Galicia, a response to the economic crisis


18 The environmental performance and building requalification of tall buildings in downtown São Paulo focused in housing of social interest

18.1 Downtown São Paulo and its tall housing buildings

18.2 Architectural possibilities of requalification and its environmental performance

18.3 Occupation and energetic demand

18.4 Flexibility and sustainability

18.5 Final considerations


19 The reoccupation in multifamily buildings in downtown São Paulo

19.1 A reflection about the ergonomic issue

19.2 União building in the Bom Retiro neighbourhood: the structure recovery and the achievement for housing



Part 5 – The environmental challenges and the market strength

20 More sustainable housing for low income population: fundaments and proposals developed by the Oriented Centre for Building Innovation (Norie)

20.1 A quick retrospect of housing research of social interest

20.2 Resilient communities in the post peak oil scenario: a reflection about the challenges for sustainability

20.3 The challenge of (re)planning communities for the post fossil fuels era

20.4 Studies development for a housing complex in the municipality of Feliz, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

20.5 Final considerations


21 Environmental certification of buildings

21.1 A revision of certification systems and the Brazilian case

21.2 A critical evaluation of the LEED system


22 Brazil, National Plan of Energy Efficiency, labelling and the Caixa’s Blue House seal

22.1 Labelling for evaluation of energy efficiency level in buildings

22.2 Caixa’s Blue House seal

22.3 Final considerations


Final considerations

The value of the better performance building and environmental quality



It was a long path since the first discussions about the impact of the building sector in the world until the proposal of this book, bringing to surface the need of using the denomination environmental building. It is important to remember how we got to the moment we live today, how environmental conscience has been created and absorbed by the nations and how the environmental speech became not only a claim for nature but also as a new and promising business opportunity all around the world. It all started when the first oil shock hit us as a group of developed and developing nations in the early 70’s, especially in the United States and Europe. In that moment there was the embargo by the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Persian Gulf on the crude oil distribution. This new situation generated impacts and consequences of international proportions and, even though it had affected some countries more than others, it impacted at some way all the countries importers and dependents of petroleum aside from USA and Western Europe, as it was with Brazil. The crisis indeed started in 17 October 1973 when the OPEC and allies, during the Yom Kippur War, announced they would stop sending petroleum to countries supporting Israel in its conflict with Egypt. As consequence, in only five months, between 17 October 1973 and 18 March 1974, the oil barrel prices increased up to 400%, causing a recession initially in the USA and Europe which spread to the rest of dependent countries.

The clear dependency of all to a small group of countries wasn’t unknown, but there wasn’t a plan B internationally made and agreed between the dependent nations. Analysing today, it astonish us this unpreparedness for an international contingency plan in an eventual shortage of a basic feedstock such as petroleum. The fact is the commotion resultant from the crisis reverberated in all areas and in all directions and the sector of buildings, embodied in the image of the architect and its creations, didn’t escaped from the torrent of critics received, especially after stepped back from the once successful alliance it was the tight partnership and connection between architecture and the weather. This connection and this bond have been broken al around the world and part of it is due to the total environmental control occurred mainly in office buildings in view of the progress of active technologies emphasizing artificial illumination and air-conditioning. Between the end of the 1950 decade and the 1973 oil crisis the architects felt free enough to concretize their creations in the exact meaning of the word making use of artificial methods which compensate the lack of natural ones, and there were no legal mechanisms to stop it. The result was the existence of office buildings consuming 100 kWh/m2 per month in the United States, which is inconceivable today.

Under this light the 1973 oil crisis, also known as the first oil shock, generated a shock also in architecture, in the design patterns, the way of designing and the role of its responsibility facing the international energetic scenario. Is important to highlight that in the 1970 decade as much as presently, i.e. the second half of the XXI century, the building sector is still responsible for a significant part of the energy consumption in developed and developing countries, accounting for something between 30% and 40% of the total consumption. The USA case stands out with 39% participation (2011). The crisis progress in 1974 created two actions highly beneficial for the building sector as much for the planet, namely: the creation of the International Energy Agency (IEA), situated in Paris, France, and the beginning of the implementation praxis of energetic regulations for the building sector. When founded, the main goals of IEA were: (i) maintain and improve systems for dealing with oil supply interruptions; (ii) promote rational energetic policies within a global context through cooperative relations between members and non-members countries, the industry and international organizations; (iii) operate a permanent information system about the international oil market; (iv) improve the world energy offer and demand through development of alternative energy sources and increase the efficiency of energy usage; (v) promote international collaboration in energy technologies and; (vi) assist the environmental and energetic policies integration. One can notice in this IEA goals declaration a strong reference to two aspects tightly connected to the building sector: the efficiency improvement in energy usage which also refers to the efficiency improvement on equipment, and the assistance to members and non-members countries in creating their own environmental and energetic policies.

The international response after the IEA creation was unbelievably fast, showing even though there wasn’t a plan B for an energetic crisis alternatives existed to be activated immediately. As regard the building sector this response centred efforts in the creation of public and governmental policies aiming the reduction of the building sector participation in the international power matrix. In North America several America states started developing these policies but most of them, through an absolutely bright action, adopted the guidelines from already existent national technical organizations, such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and adapt them to be transformed into edification codes in the form of law. In Europe, France adopted the same principle and adapted the standards and recommendations made by the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) with major participation of experts from the entire country to turn them into a National Building Code considering all regions. The European Union, not as fast but following the occurred events proposed the parliament to develop the Eurocode, which would be a single code to all the member countries. This code would be used especially for those countries without their own. At the end, the Eurocode happened to not be used but not for lack of interest, for the members countries of IEA responded positively to the question and developed, at their own pace, their particular energetic policies for the building sector, based in their constructive culture and mainly the figures possible to be achieved initially. Well, the first step has been taken. Less than a year after the oil embargo there were policies already made and implemented for the building sector and this movement kept growing, country after country. However, a second movement was arising, closely following the events succeeding the embargo, as a consequence of it, though with a broader approach: the environmental movement.

The environmental movement recognized the energetic issues as fundamental but also admitted there were other emergency questions on the planet and determined mainly the natural resources couldn’t keep on being extracted at such speed and, in opposite of what occurred in the embargo, it was necessary to have a plan B. This plan B was called natural resources optimization. The United Nations (UN) joined the cause and initiated a series of international conferences to discuss the issue, but these discussions weren’t resulting in the suggestion of clear, effective and restrictive environmental policies. In this scenario the 1970’s and early 1980’s passed until, in two important UN conferences, notable documents in the international context were proposed, the first one was the Our Common Future, from the 1987 Copenhagen conference, and the other was the global Agenda 21 released in the 1992 Rio de Janeiro conference, which proposed a worldwide policy for the environment. In that moment there was an international conscience well-formed and clear about the environment and the buildings role in that scenario, able to contribute with the reduction of important feedstock such as water, energy and primary extraction materials. In the developed countries this conscience became action and the civil society initiated a movement of organization involving these issues creating associations with absolutely clear purposes: to reduce the impact of buildings in the global environmental scenario. The first country to organize itself in this area was the United Kingdom which, through the Building Research Establishment (BRE), created the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) tool. The second was the United States which, through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) tool. The third was France, which created the Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE) or High Quality Environmental Standard,and so on until the present days, with the release of the German tool Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB) or German Society for Sustainable Construction, which is adopting a considerably aggressive policy for disseminate their ideals. These tools and initiatives, according to themselves, are a response of the organized civil society to supply a demand of public policies the governments don’t organize to create. It’s an interest critic for in the beginning of the 1970 decade the governments organize themselves around the energetic matter but, in the early 1980’s, didn’t take the same lead regarding the environmental issue. Without trying to explain the reason of this attitude on the part of the governments, let’s try to understand the development of these actions on the part of the international civil societies. With the advent of the voluntary environmental tools/certifications there was a quick adherence of the building sector to them. On the academic side this adherence was encouraged by an ideal of seeing the sustainability trademark in the architectural designs, and visualize a future in which great examples of environmental inefficiency are no longer built. From the entrepreneur’s part, the certifications add value to the projects and this value would be compensated by the commercialization of these enterprises, without evidently causing loss. On the part of the market of civil construction the certifications were seen as business opportunities, since it wasn’t possible to avoid them the exit was to join them. Thus, it was formed the network of support to the certifications. At the moment there’s no way and we don’t even believe this should retreat. We do believe architecture can and must be beyond certifications, regulations and standards. It needs to respect them but must continue on being creative and innovating as always has been. It must also understand its relation with the weather can never be undone and the errors of the past can’t be repeated. This book was written to this end, i.e. to rescue this idea and does it brilliantly presenting concepts, cases and more, showing technology can be allied to architecture and not its enemy.

Marcelo de Andrade Romero
Dean of the University of São Paulo
Architecture and Urbanism Faculty (FAU-USP) and
Superintendent of Environmental Management of
University of São Paulo (USP)