The Connection Between Architecture And Health

Internationally renowned architect Tye Farrow told an audience in Sydney, Australia recently that there is a connection between architecture and health. “What if our health became the basis for judging every building and every public space?” he asks. “What if each of us – every person, everywhere – asked, ‘Does this place cause health? How does it make me feel?’”

Farrow lists 5 attributes every architect should have firmly in mind when designing a building:

  • Nature:  Incorporating materials that grow naturally and that let in natural daylight as it moves with time have been proven to stimulate the brain.
  • Authenticity: Usiing designs that draw on things we know and stimulate our memories.
  • Variety: Buildings don’t all have look the same. They can express the aspirations of the organizations they are built to serve.
  • Vitality: Designs should come alive and activate spaces.
  • Legacy: Creating designs that make a lasting contribution.

If the industry understood the health-causing potential of every building, every public space and every home Farrow says, then “dreary design and merely functional places would become unacceptable. Instead, people would expect optimistic design that encourages social interaction, pride in community identity, connections to nature, cultural meaning and a positive legacy.”

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Farrow advocates for designs that focus not just on a sustainability, such as a building’s carbon footprint, but also on whether a space “causes health”, or allows people to thrive mentally, socially and physically. Farrow refers to those factors as “salutogenic” elements.

He points to the South Africa Health Center (right) which takes the shape of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, and therefore serves as a metaphor for hope, healing and renewal. “One of the team’s goals was to demonstrate what can be done in a tangible way to move beyond minor improvements in achieving a healthier population. On a global scale, the design will serve as a ‘leapfrog model’ that opens the eyes of decision-makers,” Farrow explains.

In recent years, expectations for environmental impact have been expanded to include awareness for how physical surroundings affect our state of mind,” he said. “We believe that sustainable building objectives must embrace human health issues as well as environmental effects. This means that the public should expect design to make a holistic, meaningful contribution to their lives.”

When it comes to design of outdoor spaces Farrow says, “A walkable neighborhood…..has potential in enlivening a suburb, but distance, safety and access aren’t the only ingredients for a successful recipe – it also requires streetscapes that are not boring and repetitive but which attract local residents.

“This requires thinking about the visual and physical qualities that motivates people to create thriving spaces.” He points to New York City’s Highline Park (right) as an example of healthy design. The park is built on top of an unsightly railroad trestle that used to bring freight trains into Manhattan’s West Side.

One Farrow creation the embodies all of his design ideas is the tree house shown below that Farrow Partners designed for Eterra Resort. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up inside and feel at one with nature?

Source: Green Building Elements


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Green Building Conference in June

As Green Building becomes the norm, the demand for innovative and sustainable construction solutions grows. The latest perspectives, new design strategies and cutting edge examples from international and regional speakers will be presented at the ninth annual Green Building Conference, which takes place on 24 and 25 June 2015 during the annual Sustainability Week at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria.

Buildings are a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore a more sustainable built environment is needed. The Green Building Conference, which takes place at this year’s Sustainability Week, will focus on these issues as citizens have a responsibility to minimise electricity usage, with demand exceeding supply in both commercial and residential areas. The latest best practice will be shared by renowned practitioners around the globe at this thought-provoking conference.

“The world’s population could reach almost 10 billion by 2050. Most people will live in cities. To accommodate an additional 3 billion people, we’ll need to build the equivalent of one new city, that can support one million people, every five days between now and 2050,” says Professor Barbara Norman, Foundation Chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Canberra. Norman will present extensive insights into building resilient and healthy cities for the 21st century at the Green Building Conference.

Co-founder architect of UNITYDESIGN Inc and researcher at Tokyo University, Tomohiko Amemiya will discuss how to improve urban living in high density residential areas. Amemiya will share insights gained from his work on the award-winning Slum Housing Project, Megacity Skeleton, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Kenneth Stucke, Director of Environment Response Architecture (ERA Architects) will present two green building case studies of energy, water and waste efficiency. Stucke will discuss the value of climate, geology, geography and ecology as a resource with which architecture synthesizes to produce built form.

Joan-Maria Garcia-Girona, Vice-President and Head of Business Center South Africa and Sub-Sahara at BASF, one of the sponsors of the Green Building Conference, says, “We at BASF define sustainability as a balance between economic success and social and environmental responsibility. Sustainability is at the core of our business with global standards implemented across all value chains, and we’ll be showcasing our innovative solutions that drive sustainability at the Green Building Conference during Sustainability Week 2015.”

The Green Building Conference will also offer breakaway sessions with practical learning and knowledge sharing opportunities. Retrofitting of buildings for energy efficiency, smart metering and feed in tariffs for roof top solar panels, water efficiency for buildings and landscaping, modular building designed for deconstruction and reuse or recycling, smart mobility interfacing with the built environment and sustainable infrastructure are just some of the riveting sessions to provide the foundation for green buildings.

“South Africa is now seeing a strong move to sustainable development. We at Lafarge have always played a leadership role in the industry and promoted cooperation in sustainable development. Green building in the broadest sense of sustainable development is an integral part of all aspects of our business strategy, and that is why we attach such importance to and are pleased to be a major sponsor of the Green Building Conference 2015,” says Felix Motsiri, National Mineral and Sustainability Manager at Lafarge South Africa.

Living sustainably is a cross-cutting issue that requires knowledge sharing across sectors; from water, to transport, mining and building. The Green Building Conference, sponsored by Lafarge and BASF, forms part of the larger alive2green hosted Sustainability Week which runs from 23 to 28 June 2015.

Sustainability Week, hosted by the City of Tshwane, offers a variety of conferences and seminars at the CSIR ICC from 23 to 25 June 2015. The Youth and Green Economy event will take place on 26 June 2015 at Tshwane University of Technology and the Green Home Fair will mark the end of Sustainability Week on 27 and 28 June 2015 at Brooklyn Mall. For more information on Sustainability Week, visit

Source: Leading Architecture




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Net Zero Waste in Construction

By Gordon Brown

According to the World Green Building Council the construction sector accounts for up to 40% of waste in landfill sites worldwide, and while this figure may be lower in South Africa construction remains a significant contributor to landfill content. The National Waste Information Baseline Report (DEA2012) indicates that the construction sector is responsible for 8% of all waste generated, although it is unclear whether this number includes the waste from product suppliers during production, which is significant. Importantly this statistic also excludes the ongoing operational waste generated in all occupied buildings, and so is understated.

Construction waste is made up of aggregates (concrete, stones, bricks) and soils, wood, metals, glass, biodegradable waste, plastic, insulation and gypsum based materials, paper and cardboard, a very high percentage of which are reusable or recyclable if separated at source. Currently 16% of construction waste is recycled in South Africa (NWIBR).

Trends and forces for change

The green building movement is being spearheaded by the CSIR and the Green Building Council of South Africa, the latter having set up rating tools that award points for, amongst other green building aspects, resource efficiency for designs which reduce waste.

Best Practice

Construction waste emanates due in some part to inconsiderate design, construction, maintenance, renovation and demolition, as well as supplier considerations such as packaging. Intelligent design and best practices during each phase can significantly reduce waste.


Architects and engineers have a very significant opportunity to affect the waste generated through the life cycle of a building by determining the method of construction and the materials specified. From simple strategies like utilising building rubble onsite as fill for instance, or reusing items from demolished buildings such as wooden window frames, by specifying materials with recycled content, and adopting strategies and building methods geared to dismantling and designed for deconstruction – design affects everything, and with careful planning and consideration given to waste and reusing materials at concept stage, much waste to landfill can be avoided. An example of this is modular construction.

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It is also very important at design stage to consider how the building is going to manage operational waste while the building is occupied – sufficient space will be required for recycling storage and sorting, as well as the access to various floors and of course for collection.


At a waste management level, there are a number of best practices to ensure maximum recyclability of materials on site:

  • Make this consideration a key performance criterion when appointing contractors
  • Set targets for % of waste not to go to landfill (refer to Green Star SA for achievable best practice)
  • Have a waste management plan drawn up according to best practice prior to beginning the project(ie. Part of the tender/brief document)
  • Have correctly marked skips for certain waste streams
  • Ensure that the correct paper work is filed for all items removed from site
  • Safe disposal tickets for hazardous waste must be kept

Keep a monthly and overall project reports of all waste and at the conclusion of the project –confirm whether targets are being achieved

There are many great examples of achieving excellent standards in construction waste management, one of these was the first Green Star SA certified project in South Africa, the Nedbank Phase II building in Sandton – in 2008 the contractor was initially concerned about the high standards set within Green Star SA for waste diverted from landfill (30, 50, or 70% of construction waste). By the end of the project, with the good waste management programme they employed, they were surprised at the incredible success – they were able to divert over 90% of their construction waste from landfill. This is a significant achievement, and is replicable across all construction projects by implementing good waste management programmes.

Product and Material Suppliers suppliers have huge potential to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Many suppliers could provide their materials to site in a way that requires less or no ‘packaging’, or packaging that is recyclable, and also ensure that their contract with the construction contractors is such that their packaging is returned to them directly for recycling or reuse. ‘Packaging’ is a significant waste source. (Packaging refers to anything that is not the actual material that will be used and left installed on site.) Besides the ‘packaging’ referred to, the product suppliers are also responsible for a significant amount of waste at their own factory or storage houses – the contractors and design team can have a significant influence on the downstream waste impacts by contracting only with suppliers that minimise their waste production and maximise recycling and reuse of waste.

The building in operation

During the course of a buildings life it will require multiple new light bulbs, new carpets and flooring, painting, filling, stripping, windows due to breakages etc. Good building managers and operators can make the necessary effort to separate materials.

The Green Star SA rating tools will reward designers for making provision for separation operations within the utilities area of the building, and building maintenance would utilise these facilities for its waste streams. It is important to have both the space designed to store and sort the waste for collection, but also to have waste management policies in place for the ongoing operation while the building is occupied.

Market forces

As the market places a greater value on sustainability, products with recyclable content become more sought after. Masonry bricks made from crushed aggregates, tiles made from recycled plastics, are just two examples of products gaining traction.

On the waste disposal side, costs are rising but it remains relatively cheap to dispose of construction waste to landfill, cheaper in fact than general waste disposal which costs R272.00 per ton.

As costs increase so too does illegal dumping, which poses an environmental problem, and municipalities need to consider increasing the penalties imposed on transgressors and to find ways of policing illegal dumping more effectively. Perhaps funds from increased charges for legal dumping can be directed in part to policing illegal dumping.

The construction sector has a massive impact and a commensurate opportunity to effect positive and meaningful change. Through a combination of product design and innovation, building design and methods, and through best practice waste management on site the sector can radically reduce the amount of waste created and significantly improve on the rate of recycling.

Source: Green Building Handbook Volume 6



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Energy Modelling in Buildings results from the Manenberg Civic Centre

By Jonathan Skeen

Modern property developers want buildings that are both more comfortable and more energy efficient. Balancing both of these requirements is a difficult challenge for the full project team. In the context of historically low energy prices, architects have placed less emphasis on the energy impacts of their design choices, while engineers have ensured thermal comfort by specifying heating and cooling (HVAC) equipment large enough to meet the worst case demand, regardless of the inherent energy efficiency of the overall building design.

Thus environmental concerns and electricity bills have not typically shaped the design process. As a result, building components – including building fabric, HVAC systems and lighting systems – have been developed compartmentally: with little in-depth interaction amongst the design team on how to improve the combined efficiency of the overall system. Consider, for example, the design of a building’s façade. Typically the realm of the architect, façade design affects daylight penetration into interior spaces. Improved daylight penetration reduces the amount of electric lighting required, and can cut the heating effect of interior light bulbs: reducing the energy use of HVAC systems which must counteract it.

Understanding the impacts of individual design choices requires a means of quantifying a myriad of knock-on effects under the full range of potential operating conditions. Energy modelling allows the design team to model and predict the effect of all design choices: from window sizes, to wall materials, to fan and chiller selections. It enables the development of a more integrated design, where structural elements and electrical and mechanical systems fit together more seamlessly, and are designed as a single energy-using system, rather than multiple parallel systems.

A variety of energy modelling software tools are available to South African design teams. The most effective and useful of these allow the user to simulate both thermal conditions and daylight penetration, under a dynamic range of external weather conditions. Software packages – such as DesignBuilder with EnergyPlus, AutoDesk’s web-based Green Building Design Studio, and Google SketchUp with the EnergyPlus add-in – allow users to visually represent their building designs and understand the manner in which they use energy. It is a field of software development that is rapidly progressing, with the power and usability of the available packages improving quickly.

These tools can provide strong, quantitative evidence on the cost benefit of various design interventions aimed at improving comfort and energy efficiency. Energy modelling during the development of a proposed public safety building in the US town of Raleigh, North Carolina (City of Raleigh, 2011) showed that a high performance façade (with wall U values of 0.391 and window shading coefficients of 0.322) would yield a 14.5% reduction in required cooling air volume, an 8.8% reduction in cooling plant load, and a 17.8% reduction in heating plant load, over an equivalent building meeting ASHREA3 energy standards (Heikin, 2011).

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Further analysis found that the financial impact of these changes would add just 0.54% to projected baseline costs. However, it was also found that the knock-on effects of improving the building envelope would ultimately lead to an overall building cost reduction. This is because the improved design would require smaller chillers and air-handling units, smaller heating and cooling pipes and pumping units, less equipment insulation, and would require less of the building space to be dedicated to HVAC plant. Furthermore, annual energy consumption was projected to fall by 5.2% relative to the equivalent ASHRAE building (Heikin, 2011).

Energy modelling and integrated design approaches, as well as the skills required to effectively apply them, are emerging in South Africa. To this end number of project management, architectural, and consulting engineering firms are engaging in projects with goals of sustainability and energy efficiency, while adopting the skills and tools needed to deliver comfortable, cost-effective and energy efficient buildings.

Many of these projects are aiming for accreditation by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), an organisation established in 2007 with the aim of developing a more sustainable local built environment. To this end the council has developed a series of ratings tools which address a variety of sustainability criteria, with a particular emphasis on energy use and renewable energy generation. To date the GBCSA has certified nearly twenty new South African buildings under its Green Star SA program, and has a growing list of upcoming projects (GBCSA, 2012).

The Manenberg CiviC CenTre

The new Manenberg Civic Centre was developed in line with the Green Star SA guidelines, and is currently undergoing assessment for a Green Star SA rating. The design team, led by architect Ashley Hemraj of the City of Cape Town – placed a heavy emphasis on sustainable energy use. As such, a number of interlinking design choices were taken in order to improve the overall, integrated energy efficiency of the building. Key interventions included:

  • The selection of insulating wall and roof elements, using novel systems such as thick sandbag walls.
  • Optimization of daylight penetration while avoiding excessive solar gain.
  • The use of efficient HVAC equipment, incorporating heat recovery technology.
  • The implementation of lighting controls and occupancy sensors.
  • The use of efficient bulbs, and the implementation of a ‘reduced’ lighting scope.
  • The use of solar water heaters.
  • The incorporation of a hybrid wind and solar PV renewable energy system.

Tasked with modelling the energy use of the building, Emergent Energy – a Cape Town consultancy specialising in renewable energy and energy efficiency – undertook a detailed analysis of these interventions using DesignBuilder with EnergyPlus. By simulating the building’s thermal conditions and electricity demand every ten minutes for a full year, they were able to develop a detailed picture of how each of the energy-using systems in the building would consume electricity under varying conditions.

As a baseline, a notional building model was also developed with the same overall shape and volume of the actual building, but with its building fabric, glazing, HVAC systems and lighting systems set according to the “SANS 204: Energy Efficiency in Buildings” standard (SABS, 2011)4. In parallel, high level modelling of the renewable energy systems was undertaken using the RETScreen software tool (RETScreen, 2012).

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Figure 5.1 compares the monthly electricity demand resulting from key energy users5 of three scenarios, namely: the notional SANS 204 compliant building, the actual building with no renewable energy; and the actual building with a 15kW solar PV array. Without the use of renewable energy systems, the building operators could have expected to use around 30% less electricity than the equivalent building meeting SANS 204 standards. With the PV system included, the saving increases to nearly 60% annually. This excludes the effect of the 5kW wind turbine which has also been installed at the centre, which can be expected to further reduce electricity consumption by approximately 5%.

The financial implications of the design interventions are significant. Assuming a standard commercial tariff for small power users in Cape Town, the building operators can expect to save around R50, 000 per annum on their large energy uses – a total reduction of approximately a third. With the introduction of renewable energy systems, this increases to well over R90, 000 per annum – or nearly two thirds of the total. Projected monthly electricity bills for the three scenarios are shown in Figure 5.2.

The results are a testament to the power of integrated design in matching hard engineering goals with the aesthetic, social and economic goals of the architects. Achieving the level of detail and accuracy required to properly assess the different interventions simply cannot be achieved using standard engineering calculations. Energy modelling, by comparison, can provide real economic impetus for more sustainable design choices, especially where the capital costs are high, and payoffs are not clearly understood.

Source: Sustainable Energy Resource Handbook Volume 3



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The Vertical Zoo: A wild greenery-wrapped tower that provides refuge for animalia

We’ve seen tons of vertical farms, but what about vertical zoos? Why not take the same theories and technologies used to grow organic produce and raise animals and apply them to build more compact, more sustainable zoos? Proposed by Mexico City-based BuBa Arquitectos, the Vertical Zoo is a balanced and sustainable space where people and animals can coexist in harmony. Wrapped in lush vegetation, the star-shaped building makes use of green building strategies to reduce heat gain, encourage natural ventilation and soak up rainwater. Totally self-sufficient, the tower’s aim is to be a sustainable refuge for all animal kingdom species.

Vertical Zoo, BuBa Arquitectos, vertical garden, eco zoo, self-sufficient, zoo

The zoo is built from a six armed star-shaped level designed to maximize space, views and circulation. It is based on a nucleus or a tree trunk from which emerges six branches, each 20 sq meters in size which all serve different programmatic needs. These program blocks provide space for zoo activities, visitor needs, administration, circulation and ventilation, and spaces for sustainability. Modular by design, more star-shaped levels can be added on top as needed or as funding becomes available for new facilities.

Lush foliage surrounds the tower and protects its inhabitants from the elements, creating an overall picture of harmony. Totally self-sufficient, the vertical zoo is capable of providing its own water and energy through rainwater collection and solar power. Arrangement of the star-shaped levels encourages natural ventilation and improves views. Multiple towers can be built together to create a larger interconnected complex.

The Vertical Zoo is designed to be as much about the animals as it is about the people who visit and encourages meeting and cohabitation as a way to promote equanimity between the species. Although zoos are not always the most humane place for animals, there may come a time when we need to protect species from total extinction. This vertical zoo attempts to find a sustainable solution.


Case Study: Bio-climatic Building design for tropical climates

By Antoine Perrau

Environmental design in the humid tropics requires special consideration. This chapter is based on two case studies which attempt to develop a practical approach to including key elements of bio- climatic design in tropical regions.

Location: Reunion Island
Population 840,000 inhabitants
Area: 2512km 2
Geology: Volcanic island
Highest point: Mount des Neiges 3070m
Rainfall: Reunion holds all world records for precipitation between 12 hours and 15 days

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Case Study 1: Malacca flores

Promoter: SIDR (Semi-Public Social Housing) Architects: Michel Reynaud / Antoine Perrau Environmental quality department: LEU Meeting City: Le Port
Altitude: 10 m leeward coast
Delivery: 2011
Total floor area: 8950 m2

The Context:

The project is located in a Development Zone and the objectives include: opening the city towards the sea, to reinvigorate the city centre, create a link between the periphery and centre of the community, and to implement the principles of sustainable development through a green master plan.
The projects location and surroundings were thus crucial to its success.

The Site:

The site of a project and its concomitant micro climate is of particular importance in the tropics. Favourable conditions on site will impact the performance of buildings constructed there.

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For instance the presence of trees plays a fundamental role in the areas micro-climate.

Our firm’s offices are in the centre of the island, allowing us to illustrate these differences.

During February, the month with the highest temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, a temperature differential of 7 ° C was measured between the street and the inside of the office (without air conditioning). This is achieved in part, by planting buffers of vegetation such as grass and shrubs between the street and the building. The effect of the plants is to cool the air through evapotranspiration, and reduces the albedo effect by shading the concrete and other hard surfaces.

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The role of plants in reducing the urban heat island effect has also been demonstrated in the city of Paris by researchers from Météo France. The diagram below illustrates the difference in temperature between the suburbs and the city center during a summer’s day, which was 4 ° C.

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We therefore sought a favourable site for the project, and special effort was taken to re-vegetate surrounding buildings and find space on natural land.

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The second step was to determine the most favourable orientation of the shading devices through computer simulations of sunscreen designs.















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Parallel to this reflection, we verified the thermal comfort. It should be noted that the concept of comfort temperature is different from the temperature measured with a thermometer and is not absolute but depends on several parameters: humidity, air velocity, air temperature, the radiation

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temperature of the walls, metabolism and clothing. One can evaluate the effect on internal comfort of a building as influenced by the first four factors mentioned above using the comfort graph developed by Givonni:

Red air velocity of 1m / s Yellow air velocity of 0.5 m / s Green air velocity of 0m / s

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The graph demonstrates how essential it is to ensure natural ventilation, which is achieved through the porosity of the facades, and in this latitude, there should be a minimum porosity of 20% between two opposite facades.

Effective implementation of these interventions allows urban and architectural buildings to reduce their energy consumption by between 28 and 41 kWh / m2 / year. In fact spaces designed in this way provide thermal comfort without the need for air conditioning, even in the tropics.



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Additional Features:

Beyond these provisions, the specification proposes a number of other environmental features:

Implementation of solar hot water panels and photovoltaic roof panels

These panels are also used to shield the roof from high levels of solar radiation. 70% of the heat input comes through the roof, and so this element of the design should be treated with the utmost consideration and care.

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This dual purpose of the solar devices can increase their efficiency and reduce overall cost. Increased use of wood to reduce the carbon footprint of the project Wood was specified for the structure of corridors, sidings, sunscreens and pergolas.

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Grey water recycling

We used a filtration system with a settling tank and a filter zeolite vertical which provided regular contributions of water for irrigation.

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Source: Continue reading to Case Study 2 in the Green Building Handbook Volume 4, pg 146



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