Presentation from the 8th VELUX Daylight Symposium that took place in Paris on 9 October 2019.
As changes in resources and conditions (materials, water, energy, climate, …) are less and less predictable, it’s more relevant than ever to create robust buildings. Buildings can offer greater resilience not only through their strength, but also through higher flexibility and adaptability to new contexts, functions, and climates.
At this point, design is re-fueled with purpose: new tools and softwares allows us to precisely acknowledge the implications of the building envelope as soon as the first sketch is created. We aim to design buildings that don’t rely on high technology and mechanical input to be comfortable, but on the physical design of the volume itself. It means relying on the physical capacities of the materials (insulation, mass, shading, glass…) instead of mechanical energy of the systems (heating, cooling, artificial, light…).
This approach also touches on aesthetics and other sensitive qualities of the built environment at the very start of building conception. The design process cannot focus solely on analysis and regulations, but must continue to deliver livable, beautiful, and enjoyable environments, which remains the most basic mission of an architect.
As designers of the built and experienced environment, we want to use these new tools, not only to achieve greater numbers, but also to help us meet our vision of quality (comfort, natural light, flexible programming, atmospheric variety…). We are now able to design in terms of flows (energy, materials, people, moisture, light…) which is a big revolution in the construction industry.
For example, in “Belval” or “Belliard” project, we analyzed the radiation of the sun on each facade. As it is an office building, overheating might be the most important issue for indoor comfort. Parametric design software tools as Rhino and Grasshopper allow us to run many dynamic simulations to test hundreds of design variants in a short time. An algorithm is implemented with various parameters, changing the distance between elements in order to achieve the best ratio between natural light, views, and shade control.
The application of this approach at urban scale leads to a systemic and global conception. The aim is to design a city like a forest, a sustainable ecosystem where each element contributes to a self regenerating permanent cycle. We developed this concept of “permacity” in particular in the project “Reinvent Paris Metropol”, in Paris-Charenton, in collaboration with OXO and EAI.
Specifically, in terms of natural lighting, on this urban design, the volumes were shaped in order to provide at least 1h of sunlight during winter solstice, or 2h hours during equinoxes.
From a broader perspective, this particular way of conceiving the built world including various factors will not only provide a climate neutral impact, but also will provide benefits in numerous aspects (health, social, cultural, biodiversity, depollution, …). In spite of consuming our organic resources, action and building regenerate our environment.
Architect in A2M since 2010, Aline Branders is now a partner of the firm. She is responsible for Research and Development of A2M since 2014. In this context, she pushes for different facets of sustainable projects: passive, zero-energy (or autonomy), carbon neutral, BREEAM certification, ACV, natural light, water treatment, biodiversity, innovative products, etc. She regularly provides training to architects and contractors on various topics related to sustainable architecture. She has also published for the ‘be.passive’ magazine edited by the A2M office and makes frequent publications in other journals or books. She has given many lectures for different education or professional networks and she also gives courses in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Brussels.
As founding member of A2M, Sebastian Moreno-Vacca leads A2M’s vision, design aesthetic and drive to be the most sustainable and energy efficient architecture possible. Since starting the architecture firm A2M in 2000, Sebastian has led it to international recognition through his sustainable building knowledge and his numerous roles as president of the Board of the Belgian Passive House Association. Since 2006, he has also been teaching at ULB architecture. In 2009, he co-founded and edited the magazine ‘be.passive’. He has been giving lectures regularly for several professional networks (architects, engineers and builders) for more than 15 years. He has also been giving an extensive set of presentations, conferences and trainings in Europe and, for some years, in the United States.
Video courtesy of The VELUX Group