Bioclimatic is the New Green

Event: Basic Bioclimatic Design: High Performance, Simplified
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.22.09
Speakers: Hillary Brown, FAIA, LEED AP — Principal, New Civic Works; Glenn Garrison, AIA — Principal, Glenn Garrison Incorporated
Organizer: AIANY Committee on the Environment


Queens Botanical Garden designed by BKSK Architects.

©Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Although sustainable design has made progress in recent years, the sheer scale of the A/E/C industry’s environmental impact proves that there is still a great deal of work to be done. According to Hillary Brown, FAIA, LEED AP, principal of New Civic Works, and Glenn Garrison, AIA, of Glenn Garrison Incorporated, bioclimatic design is the logical next step.

In bioclimatic design, architects develop an understanding of their site’s relationship to its natural and manmade context, then use this information as the starting point for the building’s design, Brown explained. For example, by examining exactly how the sun strikes a site throughout the day and during different seasons, designers can manipulate elements such as building shape and window placement to maximize daylight penetration and minimize the need for artificial heating and cooling.

One successful project, according to Brown, is BKSK Architects’ design for the Queens Botanical Garden, which employed bioclimatic design strategies. The LEED-Platinum building was designed to be flooded with natural light; water management techniques, such as gray water and storm water re-use, unify the building with the landscape; and energy consumption is reduced by using solar panels and a geothermal system.

However, despite the advantages of this holistic, context-based approach, Brown argued that basic bioclimatic principles are too often neglected in current architectural practices. “I’ve been struck in consultations with design teams how many buildings are improperly oriented, or are massed or fenestrated without recognition of different concerns of each of the façades. We really have to reacquaint ourselves with some basic operating principles.”