Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Posted 13 September 2011, by Jennifer Shockley, Green Building Elements (Important Media),


Design industries are taking new approaches to environmentally sustainable projects. Being aware and being pro-active is no longer a phase it is mandatory that in every project, our impact on the earth is accounted for. This accountability is found in Bioclimatic Design.

Bioclimatic Design is the reduction of energy consumption using appropriate techniques such as energy efficient systems and technologies including, but not limited to, passive solar systems. Passive solar systems are based on a building, its spaces, both interior and exterior, and the local climate.

Bioclimatic Design is the use of environmental sources: air, sun, wind, vegetation, water, soil, daylight for heating, cooling and lighting of buildings. Plus when a design takes into account the local climate, these factors must be considered and designed around: heat protection including insulation and air tightness, solar energy for heat and light, sun protection with the orientation, use of reflective materials, surfaces and colors, and the removal of heat with natural ventilation.

Kane Cres writes,

“As inhabitants of buildings, we can make our lives more comfortable, preserve the environment, our health and well being. We can use them appropriately to this end.

The energy we consume in buildings is costly. It is worthwhile asking ourselves who pays for this consumption and why.”

To achieve perfect balance with the environment with the use of Bioclimatic Designs the industry will require all kinds of participants. The manufacturing companies, the sellers, the designers, and the clients must all be on board and willing to achieve great designs through green technologies and to demand that their expectations be met, if a material is not available at the highest economy-safe standards, than a material must be designed at that level.

Different projects and companies are already displaying the smart choices that go along with Bioclimatic Design.

Elmer Avenue "Green Street"

In Los Angeles, a 40-acre neighborhood area known as Elmer Avenue has become a complete ‘green street.’ It is a Neighborhood Retrofit Demonstration Project following the water augmentation study done by the Council for Watershed Health to help lower dependency on foreign water supplies and to suppress flooding that occurs from the annual, although short-lived, winter downpours.

This street utilizes a variety of strategies to capture rainwater and runoff through the soil, clean it, and recycle it by added the water to the aquifers. The one block location generates and now captures more water than they use in an entire year.

“By capturing the rainwater, Southern California reduces its reliance on foreign sources of water and improves the overall health of the landscape. In addition, it helps save energy, since an incredible 19% of our energy use in California is devoted just to the movement of water from place to place!” wrote Brian Sheridan, Development and Marketing Manager of the Council for Watershed Health.

Elmer Avenue is a project designed to rehabilitate the neighborhood and also it is a continuous active research project that will benefit many communities in the future.

Elmer Avenue Bio-swale

The project implements the use of:

  • Under street filtration galleries
  • Open bottom catch basins
  • Bio-swales
  • Rain barrels
  • Permeable pavers
  • Climate appropriate landscape
  • Solar street lights

The first phase of the project was completed in 2010 becoming LA’s first off-the-grid neighborhood and the second phase will include an additional 20 acres, thereby capturing 60 acres of land’s rainwater to add to the aquifers.

Another company dedicated to Bioclimatic Design is a start-up company called First Coast Solar Screens founded by John Wilder a RESNET Certified Energy Auditor.

Solar screens can reduce temperatures of the sun coming through glass by embracing a relatively new technology of sun-screen fabrics. John Wilder wrote,

“The sun’s heat coming through glass almost works like a magnifying glass. I just took the temp coming through a skylight at our city hall yesterday and it was 117 degrees I took a temp through an east facing window in our school and it was 108 degrees. The solar screens reduce these temps down in the low 70′s which of course have a dramatic effect on your AC bill. They are literally the best bang for your buck in energy savings and typically have a 1-2 year payback.”

First Coast Solar Screens uses Phifer solar screening products.

Phifer fabrics

Phifer was founded by Reese Phifer and is the world’s leading manufacturer and seller of energy saving sun control fabrics for residential and commercial use.

 “Phifer’s commitment to the environment dates back to the company’s origins when our founder, Reese Phifer, envisioned a manufacturing facility that would bring a better standard of living to its community, advances in technology to its industry and innovative products to its customers.”

They offer products of insect control, plus interior and exterior sun control. Their products are 100 percent recyclable and their fabrics are PVC-free.

Their production process includes a waste management program, employee awareness training and pollution prevention programs to insure that they stay as green as possible.

Phifer was the first manufacturer in their industry to receive GREENGUARD Certification. They state,

 “At Phifer, environmental responsibility is part of our corporate culture. We are leaders. We are proactive. We do it because it is the right thing to do.”

Sun Control

GREENGUARD is an environmental institute that was created to help manufacturers to improve their processes and to do so in a more environmentally-safe and aware way. It has helped manufacturing companies in more than 20 industries to improve their processes.

As this article could continue on for endless pages, circling through all the companies that make up design industries, it is evident that Bioclimatic Design is everywhere and requires everyone’s commitment. It is throughout the design industries and is becoming a required mind-set verses a personal choice. It will take every industry, every person to re-establish what we’ve taken from and done to the earth.

Bioclimatic Design is a circle engulfing the world to make it a better place.


Resources: Greenguard, Phifer, Council for Watershed Health, The American Institute of Architects and Kane Cres

Special Thanks to: John Wilder and Brian Sheridan




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