16 April 2018

 

They weren’t satisfied with the environment in ordinary office buildings, so they tried to make something more pleasant. Buildings without air conditioning, with natural air circulation. Another part of the story of LIKO-S.

In the first and second part of our series, we got to know the family company from Slavkov u Brna, who devised a unique solution of so-called “living buildings”. We learned how they managed to make do without air conditioning through the clever connection of the interior and exterior and how they brought nature closer to the employees in the buildings. The founder, Libor Musil, continues recounting the tale.

Surrounded by greenery or by the pond

What was the result and success I mentioned at the end of the previous part? The fact that people work in our new development center without the use of air conditioning. They can choose whether they want to work indoors or outdoors by the green façade or on the pier by the pond. And in winter, a basket of wood burnt in the fireplace is sufficient for heating. Of course, we constantly measure the quality of the air: always with the best values. It’s simply a joy to work and live there.

And it’s not just about the people in the building but the other wildlife around them. It is the frogs who tease us in the pond, the fish and the tadpoles frolicking about, the appearance of grass snakes and the water full of plankton. Water plants provide biodiversity and mutual support. Birds which had earlier vanished from the industrial zone fly towards the building. We see bees collecting nectar on flowers on the facade and on the roof – carrying us their own honey.

A building can bring more to Nature than it takes from it

Before construction commenced, there was a drying-out meadow between the halls, which, was unable to grow without watering. Now there is an oasis of life there. This place is much more welcoming to life than it was before the construction.

Before a project commences, its impact on the environment and whether it will exceed the specified limits is investigated. However, we can now turn the scales of the nature impact assessment around and assess buildings according to how much they positively impact the environment. This is another change to the rules of building.

What is responsible for it? The most important factor is water. Water is what gives life to plants on the building and in its surroundings. And a water-saturated plant is the best air-conditioning unit. Plants give life to animals, including people. Water and plants are the foundation of life – and buildings are the foundation of human existence. Buildings and plants must be connected so that people with all their needs become the center of interest to building designers. This is another fundamental change to the rules.

Most people are now shut away for almost their entire lives in “skylabs”. These are buildings that are loaded with powerful technology that have the task of isolating people from the surrounding desert. It seems that only in such buildings can people survive. However, a Skylab by its nature is only equipment for a limited time.

What is the return period?

People often ask us what the economic return of houses built in this way is. Thermal stabilization of a building and its surroundings will dramatically reduce the cost of cooling and heating. However, this has been dealt with by building technologists for many years. What we now need to address, though, is the appreciation of people’s happiness, the reduction of their fluctuations and the appreciation of the better health of workers.

And another factor that we do not consider when assessing the environmental impact of a building is the amount of thermal energy that the building radiates, which heats up its immediate surroundings and atmosphere. There are still no formulas for this. This is another change to the rules of building assessment.

Local solutions with a global impact

After three years of following the LIKO-Noe project, we have come to another conclusion. In this way, we could manage to cool down our whole planet. And admit it – that would really be a big change of the rules.

Let’s first try to discuss the rules that nature now works with in regard to building. There is a huge amount of energy shining down on the ground in the form of sunlight. In order to prevent it from turning into thermal destruction, nature has created an excellent defense for life on Earth – plants that retain water.

Through the evaporation of water, which changes its state from liquid to gaseous, cooling occurs. A water-impregnated plant is the best air-conditioning unit. Water and sunlight promote plant growth, and plants support the emergence and growth of animals, including humans.

But the thing is, people build. What do all these houses, halls, paved-over areas and roads mean for nature? The natural air-conditioning units on the site where some of these buildings are created are switched off. Water falling on these areas flows elsewhere, mostly by sewerage into the regulated river and the river quickly out toward the sea. This disturbs the natural balance and creates arid areas.

Let’s keep going: Roofs and paved areas rapidly heat up due to the sun’s rays and radiate heat into the surroundings. This means that not only do we turn off the air conditioning by building, but we also replace it with heat radiators. Under heavy solar radiation, one square meter of roof has power up to 1 kilowatt. Buildings warm up and heat their surroundings. By measuring temperatures in the vicinity of buildings, we can see that the agglomerations have the same temperatures in the summer as the desert.

As is known, it does not rain in the desert. In the case of building deserts, this is evidenced by records of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute. They show it rains much less above our cities than in their surroundings. What does that mean? Building radiators are cooled even less and the heat continues to rise. In the Czech Republic, according to the data of the Czech Statistical Office, the building desert is growing at a speed of up to ten hectares per day.

Although we can’t stop building, it is necessary to change its rules.

Photo: LIKO-S

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