We can’t keep living (and working) in glass houses

The shard in London
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ The Shard, a whole lot of glass building in London

We have been asking the question for years, Can an All-Glass Office Building Really Be Considered Green? Engineer Ted Kesik was more graphic and noted that Glass Towers May Be Sexy, But They Need To Put A Coat On Now David Coley, Professor of Low Carbon Design at University of Bath, tells us that Climate change means we can’t keep living (and working) in glass houses.

Professor Coley reminds us that even the best glass makes a lousy wall. (He is using metric terms)

For example, the U-value (a measure of how much heat is lost through a given thickness) of triple glazing is around 1.0. However a simple cavity brick wall with a little bit of insulation in it is 0.35 – that is, three times lower – whereas well-insulated wall will have a U-value of just 0.1. So each metre square of glass, even if it is triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall.

He articulates the point that I have been trying to make for years, that windows should frame a view. That's what great architects and designers have done since, well, the Katsura Detached Villa in Kyoto.

Cutting back on glass would be an easy win. Windows need to be sized, not glorified, and sized for a purpose: the view, or to provide natural light or air. Windows also need to be shaded. Many would argue that we need to re-invent the window, or the building. We need to build buildings with windows, rather than buildings that are one big window.

Finally, he makes the point about adapting to different climactic and cultural conditions.

... it is clear that we need to take lessons from the past – and from other cultures. We can’t simply air-condition our way through global warming.

A valuable read at The Conversation.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Green Building


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