Training Architects in Climate Change: ClimateDesign
Green, as far as the eye can see. Amidst gently rolling hills lies a tranquil lake. Passing through an entrance hall, embedded in a ring of laurel forests, the visitor enters the Chenshan Botanical Gardens. The Gardens hold many surprises in store for him. He will find rainforests from various parts of the Earth, lotus fields, gigantic ferns. Later he comes to buildings that fit perfectly into the landscape: hills of glass, concrete, wood and steel.
The Chenshan Gardens in Shanghai are being built by German architects and engineers. They were planned with the help of climate designers. The Gardens are regarded as a pilot project in the conscientious treatment of natural resources and renewable energies, whose use is to be further minimised by taking in account local climatic and geological conditions. The planners have largely foregone energy intensive mechanical ventilation systems and air conditioning. Instead, heat pumps use the existing groundwater and, together with solar energy, ensure the basal temperature in the buildings.
Man at the centre
Architects and engineers can learn how to plan and build such houses in the Masters programme ClimateDesign. It was founded in 2007 by Professor Gerhard Hausladen, who holds the Professorship for Building Climate Control and Building Services at the Technical University of Munich. He has long worked to establish holistic planning and sustainable building – and so for re-thinking architecture.
In the first semester of the programme, students are taught a basic knowledge of sustainable, holistic building. “Here man is always at the centre of things”, explains Katrin Rohr, the assistant to Professor Hausladen. Together with her colleague Christiane Kirschbaum, she designed the ClimateDesign programme. When do people feel themselves comfortable? How does their sensory perception work? These are two questions. Only those well-versed in the answers can, with the help of Building Climate Control, holistic energy supply concepts and new technologies, build houses that are optimally suited to the needs of man and the environment.
Communication is a condition
A condition for building optimally suited houses is interdisciplinary planning in which architects and engineers work closely together. Teaching students communication skills is therefore an important part of the programme. Traditionally, an architect first designs a house according to purely aesthetic criteria before an engineer touches up the draft. If the temperature of the house is not right, for example, this is adjusted by installing a costly air conditioning system.
The holistic planning approach of ClimateDesign, on the contrary, relies from the outset on cooperation. Before drawing the first line of his blueprint, the climate designer closely examines the plot of land, analyses the local climate and then develops concepts together with the architect and the structural engineer. “It is very important that the planners communicate with each another”, explains Katrin Rohr. “That the engineers too become creative. That they actively join in the planning, even develop energy concepts and not merely make calculations for what the architect has drawn up. Only then will a harmonious aesthetic, energy and structural concept emerge in the end.”
Like the sky
In their second semester, the students concern themselves with the methods and planning tools of ClimateDesign. With the help of various simulators, they are made acquainted with the target-oriented use of light, temperature and air. Katrin Rohr supervises the light module. She recalls with particular pleasure an exercise in the artificial “empyrean”, which simulates natural daylight. The future climate designers were assigned the task of re-designing the preset model of a chapel with light and various materials. In this way the space became, among other things, an office, a disco and a concert hall.
“I was delighted at how enthusiastically the students approached this very artistic task”, reports Rohr from her own experience. “For me it was a special experience to observe how students put technology into practice in the total concept of the building. This exercise taught them that all the measuring and all the technology comes down in the end to the question of how to build an aesthetic and energy-efficient building.”
Energy-efficient building is a subject of discussion not only in Germany; it has met with world-wide interest. The demand for climate designers is great and so the Masters programme attracts qualified students from the most various countries. The number of applicants far exceeds the maximum of twenty-seven available places per year. Currently, architects and engineers from Germany, China, Korea, Chile, Norway, Italy, Austria, Turkey and Greece are studying for their Masters degree in ClimateDesign.
Because of ClimateDesign’s global dimensions, students also deal with international projects. First year participants, for example, are working together with the TU Munich’s Brazilian partner university, the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, to enable poor Brazilians, who are not connected to the public energy supply, to enjoy a certain degree of comfort. They are discussing the planning and construction of small “energy self-sufficient” houses for the favelas: houses that are inexpensive and easy to build, and that can themselves generate the energy they need.
is a freelance editor and journalist based in Düsseldorf and Cologne.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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