Posted 12 August 2011, by Staff, Eco-Logiki, eco-logiki.eu
Below is an interview of Mr. Nikos Papavlasopoulos, a civil engineer specialized in bioclimatic design.
Mister Papavlasopoulos what is a bioclimatic home?
We could say that bioclimatic homes are not a new ‘concept’ but instead a ‘concept’ that was born and existed since the old days. Thus, in many areas people used to adjust their constructions based on the peculiarities and environmental conditions of their location. Typical examples of these adjustments are the Aegean houses, which, due to heavy weather and lack of vegetation, have small openings, are painted in bright colors, mostly white, and collect water from their roofs thus solving the problem of their water supply. So, in short, bioclimatic houses are designed and built based on the local climate and aiming to save energy and ensure the thermal and visual comfort conditions for their residents.
Have you designed – built bioclimatic houses in Corfu? How do Corfiots react to new ideas?
Practicing the profession of civil engineer for many years, I have built several houses. In recent years, due to the crisis, more and more embrace my ideas. The first ones to give me the chances to build bioclimatic houses were foreigners. Lately, an increasing number of people ask for information on bioclimatic houses and a few have decided on it and acquired such a house. Currently, we are building three bioclimatic houses in Corfu what we would be happy to show to anyone interested.
What is your part in bioclimatic design?
I have to say that bioclimatic design and development is a living process that is constantly evolving. You have to be constantly up-to-date in order to find anything new that can be implemented in bioclimatic design. My task is to design a building that meets the needs of its owner, while being at the same time as less energy consuming as possible, hence less money consuming, providing a healthier and friendlier environment for its owner. Obviously, designing such a building is a task that is undertaken by more than one engineer.
What is it that makes people turn to bioclimatic houses?
The energy and economic crisis that lately governs our country has made people think more about saving money and thus turn to alternative sources of energy. Until recently, nobody tried to find other ways of house heating, simply because heating oil was cheap and people were financially strong enough to cope with that particular expense. Nowadays, however, since heating oil has become a considerable expense, people have started to turn to bioclimatic houses. These houses provide a minimum heating and cooling cost combined with all the other benefits enjoyed by their owners. From a purely financial point of view, bioclimatic residences have virtually zero operating and maintenance costs. Lately, it has become so common that anyone can go out and sell bioclimatic houses in order to attract customers. This is very serious and it is something that every house owner should pay extra care to when searching the market for a bioclimatic house because such houses are unique and special for each individual. In each case, for each site and for each one of us there is a one and only house that meets our needs. Only a specialized team of engineers knows how to design and construct such a house.
What would you advise each one of us who wants to build a bioclimatic house?
First of all, I would say that you should contact a professional engineer. If he is a constructor as well it is even better. You should also make sure that he has the knowledge required and actual examples that he can show you. The responsibility of all of us who work on bioclimatic design does not end with the design. We must ensure that it meets not only the owner’s current but his future needs as well. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to predict any future work on the improvement of the property, in case the owner cannot cover the initial cost and wants to improve it later.
What is a cost of a bioclimatic construction?
With the appropriate techniques, the cost of a bioclimatic building can match the same levels as that of a conventional simple construction. All of this is relevant, however, because the cost also depends on the materials chosen by the owner. Generally, a bioclimatic construction will cost about 10% more. This is because it is fitted with better insulation, better glazing, more shadings, the surrounding area is being taken care of and much more. Overall, there are some expenses that do not exist in a conventional construction. Of course, we should keep in mind that this cost reflects only the initial construction and that in bioclimatic constructions this cost is depreciated during the first year of the building’s operation due to the close-to-zero operation and maintenance cost.
Can anyone benefit from bioclimatic design on an existing property?
The need for improving buildings in Greece was first recognized by the state itself and for that reason it implemented a grant program called “Save-at-Home”. This program is applicable to houses built before 1980 and devoid of any bioclimatic operation principles. Through this program, owners can help themselves improve the building’s energy efficiency significantly, even if they do not possess the necessary money.
There are, of course, many possibilities for improving an old building, but we should keep in mind that the more involved we become the greater the cost. There is potential for an existing building to approach the energy efficiency of the modern bioclimatic ones, but it cannot under any circumstances reach the maximum performance of an initial design.
Are there any guarantees given for the construction of a bioclimatic house?
The most important guarantee you can be given is the name of the engineer you address. Besides that, there are several guarantees such as the good working condition one that lasts for five years. There are also guarantees for individual materials placed in the house which last up to 20 years. What must be stressed is that the benefits of bioclimatic constructions are real and measurable.
What seems to be the future of bioclimatic residences?
I would say that bioclimatic houses appear to be the only choice for the future. Normally, anyone who wants to build a house should not even think of building it in any other way. There is nothing to lose from building such a house whereas on the contrary there is much to gain. Bioclimatic houses are the only ones that instead of being costly to the owner they can yield money instead. Such an example is the installation of a photovoltaic system on the roof that will yield the owner a profit of over 100.000 € in the 25 years of use. And do not forget the close-to-zero operation and maintenance cost.
By building using bioclimatic techniques, you are building in the future health of you and your loved ones, while at the same time catering for the environment and the future of our planet, saving money in the process.