Building Adaptations for the Hottest Climates


Summers, it seems, are getting hotter every year, which makes it harder to keep homes cool during these warm months. Building adaptations for hot climates are no longer just an option — in many locations around the world, they're a necessity. Let's take a closer look at the new building adaptations that are changing the way we look at construction and comfort.

Climate-Responsive Buildings

Building Adaptations for the Hottest Climates

Bloomberg European Headquarters by Foster + Partners

The goal of this style of architecture is to make the interior of a home or building comfortable regardless of the exterior temperature. Climate-responsive architecture is designed to respond to the ambient external temperature. It uses external sensors to detect the exact weather conditions around the building and adjusts the climate control accordingly.

This process is more accurate than relying on weather reports because the building can respond to exact weather conditions in real-time — weather reports might be gathering information from miles away, which can lead to inaccurate climate controls.

Solar Controls

Building Adaptations for the Hottest Climates

Apple Dubai Mall 'Solar Wings' by Foster + Partners

If you live in an area that gets lots of sunlight, it can be great for the tourism industry, but it isn't good for climate control. In Southwestern cities like Houston, Texas, where the heat index can reach higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, controlling the heat created by sunlight is essential. The more sun a building gets, the warmer the interior becomes, and the harder the building's HVAC system has to work to keep the interior temperate.

Solar control means controlling how the sun hits the building and when. There are a number of ways to go about this task. Solar glass, for example, can automatically tint or lighten depending on the amount of sun hitting it.

Buildings can also be built with thicker insulation on the walls, foundation and roof to protect the interior from the heat generated by the sun. Even private homes can be thickly insulated and built from the ground up with insulation in the foundation to help them stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, taking some of the stress off the home's HVAC unit.

Even attaching shading devices like awnings and overhangs can help to reduce interior temperature by blocking sunlight before it gets to the windows, which can help to reduce interior temperatures and make the interior of buildings more comfortable.

Building Modifications

Building Adaptations for the Hottest Climates

Solar XXI Building, Image Credit: International Energy Agency (IEA)

New buildings are being designed to adapt to the changing climate and higher temperatures. The Building Research Establishment in England, for example, is equipped with a solar chimney. It works on the principle that hot air rises and can be opened to release hot air and keep the building cooler.

The Solar XXI Building in Lisbon is a zero energy building and uses natural light to illuminate the office spaces that are in use during the day. Heat output is re-purposed to supplement the heating system, and the HVAC system is designed to change its function in time with the seasons.

New buildings will need to be designed to adapt to the changing climate. While some of these zero power buildings aren't practical for many applications, some of the modifications can even be applied to existing buildings.

The climate is changing — summers are getting hotter, and we need to adapt if we want to stay comfortable while still going green and saving energy. Many buildings are already starting to make this transition, though plenty of buildings still need to be modified or converted, especially in areas like the Southwest US. We're seeing the beginning of the adaptation of architecture for hot climates, but this industry will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

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