The Concept of Bioclimatism
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Dec 16th, 2019

The Concept of Bioclimatism

Bioclimatism is a new concept introduced to integrate the micro-climate and architecture with respect to human thermal comfort conditions. Many studies in the recent times demonstrate that vernacular architecture is strongly related to climate and ecology design. Vernacular is a term used to categorize methods of construction which use locally available resources to address the design for the local needs.

Different studies on vernacular architecture show that bioclimatism is a determining parameter to achieve sustainability of modern architecture (Singh, Mahapatra, & Atreya, 2010)

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In modern times sustainable building design following the principles of climate has become a necessity. Climate responsive building design is determined by the local micro-climate and the ability of the building envelope to regulate the indoor thermal environment. (Dhar, Borah, Singh, & Mahapatra, 2014) Climate responsive or solar passive building design can be used as a guideline to reduce energy demand of buildings improving standards of the modern constructions. The main function of buildings is to provide shelter with appropriate thermal and visual indoor comfort for its occupants, in combination with the outdoor climate. Thermal comfort and daylighting are two main factors that contribute in the creation of a comfortable indoor environment.

Traditional vernacular dwellings are a representation of a valuable heritage and examples of design strategies used for sustainable development and climate adaptation .It is created in e period in which there was a lack of technologies for heating and cooling and they are designed in a way to optimize the use of natural resources. The creation of a knowledge base of the importance of vernacular architecture and its ecological design is a further step for future sustainable modern construction of buildings.

The case study chosen for the research is the historic city of Gjirokastra, and it represents an example of vernacular architecture in terms of usage of local materials and ecology design. Being in an historic context, the documentation of the knowledge of traditional constructions practices is important so that they can be used in the future for comfort environment in modern constructions. For the development of the research are chosen three dwellings in the city, Zekate, Kikino and Fico. The three houses are monuments of the first category. Zekate house is located in the upper part of the city, offering different views, and trees around.

Kikino is situated in the suburban areas and it’s surrounded by vegetation, and Fico house represents a more dense urban area. The analysis of these three dwellings is realized through the description of the main factors that have influenced their design and how it is approached. The study has been conducted in four aspects:

  1. Climatic context
  2. Landscape position and orientation
  3. House plan organization
  4. Construction materials and techniques.

The main focus of the research is the creation of a knowledge background of the traditional dwellings and the study of the main strategies used for passive solar design. Through the analysis of the daylight conditions and thermal comfort it is intended to show the successful design of these houses and their optimal use of daylight. The analysis of thermal comfort has been carried out by a questionnaire in different traditional houses of Gjirokastra.

The description of the traditional vernacular dwellings in Gjirokastra tends to investigate the climate responsive design strategies for their design, creating a background for new building professionals to solar passive design of modern buildings. The analysis of the thermal comfort and daylighting of vernacular houses is a further step for the documentation of past architecture. Also it is important to address the new buildings in the historic city of Gjirokastra towards the climate adaptive design.

Aim of the thesis

The main aim of the thesis is to discover the strategies used for the sustanble design of vernacular dwellings throgh the case studies in Gjirokastra.The analysis of daylighting and thermal performance tends to create a knowledge base of main startegies used for the ecologic and adaptive climate design of vernacular dwelling,creating a model for building techniques that can be used in the future. The purpose of this study is the identification and understanding of the solar passive techniques adopted in the vernacular residences of Gjirokastra region. The research is carried out by selecting, documenting and analyzing three case studies in the city.

The three house are chosen based on their location and as important examples of traditional house. The methodology used is the investigation of the daylighting performance of three important case studies and the field survey to understand the level of the thermal comfort of traditional dwelling. The research tends to assess the appropriateness of the houses in the present context through a daylighting analysis using Sefaira program and thermal performance by the field survey and developing questionnaire.


The documentation of the past construction techniques of the vernacular architecture tends to guide new designers towards modern construction adapting to local climate conditions and solar passive strategies. Thermal and visual comfort is an important element in traditional buildings as it shows if the dwelling uses the solar energy in an optimal way. The research develops an analysis of the thermal performance of vernacular housing in Gjirokastra through climate zoning, analysis and in-situ survey.This research thoroughly investigates vernacular housing designs and the main objectives are:

  • Create a knowledge base about the main factors of vernacular design and main elements of building through international case studies
  • Develop an analysis of daylighting and thermal comfort of energy performance of dwelling in Gjirokastra through the description of three houses
  • Discover the solar passive strategies used for the reaching of thermal and visual comfort in the vernacular dwellings in Gjirokastra
  • Make a comparison of the description of strategies and the daylighting analysis to see their compatibility and realize the adaptive climate design
  • Recommend appropriate solutions for solar passive and climate responsive modern houses in the city
  • Create a set of guidelines of traditional constructions techniques and strategies for future sustainable design of modern houses in the historic context

Thesis Outline

In Chapter 1 it is explained the motivation and reasons of the development of the research. Also in this part it is explained the main goal to reach through the results of the study.

Chapter 2 which includes the literature review makes an assumption of the past researches conducted about the performance of vernacular architecture. Different studies have approached the vernacular through day lighting and thermal analysis. In the first part it is made an analysis of the main factors that influence the performance of vernacular buildings. The second part is a description of the main elements of climatic responsive designed buildings and some guidelines.

The study is developed about the elements of the building envelope (walls, roofs, floors) and the heating and ventilation system. The third part is an analysis of buildings, which are important examples of successful vernacular architecture. This analysis has been made by a descriptive analysis of the dwellings in three main aspects: 1) climatic context 2) landscape position and orientation 3) construction materials and techniques. Also for the international case studies it has been created a table with information about the climate responsive design strategies used for an optimal use of the sunlight.

Chapter 3 includes the description of methodology used in my research which is focused on data collection and documentation, field research and social survey through questionnaires and daylighting analysis using the Sefaira program. The first part makes a general description of the methodology in the study. The second part creates a background information about the development of housing in Gjirokastra, main historic periods of urban development and changes in building shape.The third part explains the selection of the three vernacular houses and gives some general information about their location, year of construction and building shape .The main reasons for selecting the case study houses are explained. The fourth part makes a general explanation of the three houses chosen. The description is made about

  1. Landscape position and orientation
  2. House plan organization
  3. Construction materials.
  4. The gathering of information about these historic buildings is important to create a knowledge base about the vernacular in Gjirokastra.

Chapter 4 makes a description of the solar passive design strategies of three case studies, by making a comparison between schematic analysis through plans and sections. The aim is to discover the main climatic responsive strategies analyzing the sun angle in solstices and equinoxes .The explanation has been done through the analysis of three main building elements which are the floor, walls and roof, their materials and constructions techniques for visual and thermal comfort. The study of the approaches is made regarding the building envelope and heating and ventilation.The second part of this chapter gives a theoretical background about the daylighting analysis and Sefaira program.

Chapter 5 includes the results of the daylighting analysis and thermal comfort .In the first part, the design features are compared to the analysis of the daylighting system which has been conducted using the Sefaira program. The daylighting analysis has been developed in:

  1. daylight floor plan and direct sunlight
  2. daylight factor and
  3. underlit and overlit.

The analysis of the thermal performance has been carried out through questionnaires. The second part of this chapter realizes an interpretation of the results of thermal performance. The third part makes a general overview of the results and discussion.

Chapter 6 is the conclusion, an assumption of the strategies and techniques that can be used in the future for modern houses in the historic context of Gjirokastra.

Chapter 7 includes some suggestions for future researches in the future and the orientations for architects and urban planners who want to desgn modern housing in the future in Gjirokastra.

Theoritical Bactheoritical Background of Vernacular Architecturekground of Vernacular Architecture

Main factors affecting the design of vernacular building

Vernacular architecture reveals the combination of local climate conditions, locally available materials, simple construction techniques, living style, traditions and socioeconomic conditions of the region. (Hal?c?o?lu F. , 2012)It is an important example of the adaptation of construction to the environment and to the place. (I.J. Gil Crespo, 2015)The natural and human environmental adaptation is essential for preservation and of this type of architecture which can be used for solutions of adaptation to the new functional and technical standards. Vernacular takes maximum advantage of the environment’s possibilities with the optimal economy use. Building materials are available and taken near the construction site.

The material and the construction technique are defined by the natural and human characteristics of the zone, creating a regional type of architecture. Vernacular architecture varies widely with the world’s vast spectrum of climate, terrain and culture. (Zhai; Previtali, 2009) It represents an important example of the optimal use of natural light. Recent studies on vernacular buildings have shown that bioclimatism is an integral part of vernacular architecture and an important parameter towards achieving sustainability of modern architecture. (Singh, Mahapatra, ; Atreya, 2010) The world’s global dependence on energy has been increasing at an alarming rate. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), from1971 to 2014, world-wide energy consumption has increased by 92%. (Laustsen, 2008)

In the study of (Murakami & Ikaga, 2008) seven types of vernacular housing have been compared with a modern residential building in Hanoi and a modern house in Capadoccia.The results have shown that vernacular housing are more efficient environmentally. For the study the method used is CASBEE, which is a tool for assessing the environmental load (L) and environmental quality (Q) of detached housing. It can measure the environmental load and quality of the indoor environment of vernacular housing, enabling the elucidation of the environmental efficiency of vernacular architecture. (Murakami & Ikaga, 2008)

Table 1.Lighting Analysis of dwelling in different courtyard transformations (Chadalavada, Viswatej, & Srikonda, 2017), elaborated by the author)

Good Illuminance level

  • A large courtyard
    Good Illuminance level
  • A large courtyard divided in two parts
    Bad Illuminance level
  • Small courtyards

The study (Chadalavada, Viswatej, & Srikonda, 2017) analyzes the thermal performance and various spatial design following local climate and context of a typical vernacular dwelling in state of Andhra Pradesh, India. The results of the study have shown that indoor lighting levels have been deceased by 79% after the courtyard transformation of dwelling from 1909 to Second Transformation of original form of building 1969. The courtyard transformation procedure of the current vernacular house resulted in a positive impact on thermal comfort levels but a negative impact on indoor lighting levels of the dwelling. As it can be seen from the (Table 1) a large courtyard provided better lighting conditions and use of sunlight.

Following a case study of a vernacular dwelling in Thanjavur Region of Tamil Nadu, India (Dhanasekaran & Jayasudha, 2014) through an analysis of the thermal performance it has been shown that the identified dwelling is highly responsive to the climatic conditions. The climate is warm and humid which has resulted in low rise development building and courtyard type dwellings. The thermal performance has been developed through an ECOTECT analysis. The results show that there is a temperature difference of around 10 o C between the maximum outdoor temperatures and minimum outdoor ambient temperatures in both the hottest and coldest day. (Figure 1) (Figure 2) The good thermal comfort is achieved through thermally insulative building components and the effect of internal courtyard.

Figure 1.Thermal performance analysis of the dwelling in Tamil Nadu, India during the hottest day (April 30th) with ECOTECT Analysis (Dhanasekaran & Jayasudha, 2014) (Left)
Figure 2.Thermal performance analysis of the dwelling during the coldest day (January13th) with ECOTECT Analysis. [Devadas, 2014] (Right)

Climatic Context

The analysis of climatic adaption of vernacular architecture is based on several factors which should be taken into account. The main and most important climatic divisions can be defined: 1) Warm climates (Desert, Semi-desert, Tropical savanna) 2) Cold Climate (Continental, Continental subarctic) and 3)Mediterranean. (Zhai & Previtali, 2009) Following the (I.J. Gil Crespo, 2015) it has been analyzed three architectural types in Spain, of energy conservation mechanisms in three different climate zones.

Dry warm subtropical climate

Eastern Canary Islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura) show a warm climate, without rainfalls and a continuous and strong wind. In this region, dwellings are arranged around the courtyards which are oriented towards southeast to make use of the solar radiation and to protect the construction against the strong winds of these islands. The most of the windows are sheltered (southeast) while windward walls are opaque. The roofs are high to benefit ventilation. The courtyard in warm climates makes possible the ventilation and regulation of indoor system. (Figure 3)

Figure 3.Section of a house in Mácher, Lanzarote, and the indoor conditioning system (I.J. Gil Crespo, 2015)

Cold climate of mountain regions

In a cold or mountain climate, dwellings are compacted and gathered. The slopes of the roof are designed based on the amount of rainfall. In this type of regions, eaves are huge to move away the water from the construction. The windows are oriented towards south, east or southeast for maximum solar user with their limited dimensions for protection. At the same time, small ceilings preserve the hot air.

Underground architecture

Another example of climatic adequacy design is the caved architecture as cave dwelling or as underground dwelling. The thermal inertia of the land is used to compensate the high hydrothermal oscillation in geographical areas in which this dwelling is located. Also, the use of breezes in summertime as well as their urban planning guarantees the comfort levels in areas of high severity. A method for the regulation of conditioning system in a house in Mácher, Lanzarote is: air crossing to reduce the temperature in summertime while the glasses at the top of the windows control the solar radiation and heating of the space.

Mediterranean climate

Several studies have revealed the good thermal performance of vernacular buildings in the Mediterranean climate context using both qualitative analysis and quantitative measurements for building performance, emphasizing the benefits of using local materials. (Fernandes, Dabaieh, & Bragança, 2014) A study developed in vernacular buildings in northern Egypt and Portugal has shown some of the main strategies used for climate adaptive design. The strategies have been developed in the urban layout level and ventilation, building color, material, and opening and a study of heat and ventilation. (Table 2)

Table 2.Climate-responsive strategies used in vernacular architecture in northern Egypt and southern Portugal (Fernandes, Dabaieh, & Bragança, 2014)

Strategy Description Northern Egypt Southern Portugal

Urban layout and building form

  • Compact urban layout reduces the number of surfaces exposed to the sun (to the left map for Alexandria, Egypt from [13]);
  • Narrow streets and covered galleries protect pedestrians from harsh summer periods.
  • Building’s form is compact and the presence of patios in urban areas is frequent. On orientation, buildings seek the south quadrant to maximize solar gains in winter and to reduce them during summer.
    Shading and use of natural ventilation
  • Proper shading for windows using screens (mashrabiya) or vegetation when heat gains are not desired.
  • The use of grinds aims to foster cross air circulation in the building, ensuring privacy and thermal comfort;

Small openings

  • Minimizing the size and number of openings reduces heat gains.
    Evaporative cooling
  • Fountains and pools, usually placed in patios and cloisters, serve to cool air by water evaporation.
    Use of vegetation
  • Materials and thermal mass
  • The use of local materials, mainly earth and stone, is perfectly suited to local climate. Their good heat storage capacity stabilized indoor temperature (that remain cooler during the day and warm at night).
    Building’s color
  • The use of light-colors for the building envelope, and especially the roof which is the most exposed to the sun, aims to reduce heat gains by reflecting solar radiation.

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