Site Analysis For Energy Efficieny

A design process of a building involves a high level of complexity in which the architect plays a crucial role. Architectural design must meet design objectives that co-relate with each other and sometimes are in conflict. The task at hand is to create acomfortable and healthy environment and to decrease the energy demands of the building. This calls for creative out-of-the-box thinking that elaborates on existing knowledge and practices. The responsive ability can form that link between the lack of natural energy sources due to the dynamics of local climatic conditions and low-energy provision.

The first step to achieve the goal of an energy-efficient design is to analyse the resources available. The site is enclosing the answers to every problem; a designer needs to be observant and skillful enough to make it advantageous to the building. The following points will guide the initial steps that will help shape the environment.

Questions to ask in the analysis phase include:

·        Determine opportunities and constraints.

·        Is it good or bad?

·        What are the modification prospects?

·        How do you feel at the site?

1.       Map out the site inventory. 

Site inventories map out the existing physical, biological, social or cultural attributes. These may include circulation plan and traffic, existing utility services, or architectural character within the context.

Organising your observations is very important for the project

Make a basic table of these elements of the site, for quick reference. The table includes the soil's quality, for instance, -  

  1. Is it murky or loamy?
  2. Does it have a distinct soil colour? 
  3. The list of existing flora and fauna of the site. 
  4. The topography and how water and wind flow through it.
  5. The level of precipitation the site experiences through the year.
  6. A quick note of which direction is north, helps to study the solar orientation at the site.

This table shapes some of the constraints that, when followed, enhance the use of resources. It draws attention to what is available to us.

2. Mind the meandering flow of water on your site

The natural slopes of the site indicatethe path where water flows through the site. Once we have a clear picture of it, we can manipulate it to create a catchment area.

Water is an essential feature that needs careful consideration

This catchment will help replenish the groundwater table through Infiltration and provide water usage for non-potable purposes like irrigation for the landscape. 

3. Do not turn a blind eye to the rainfall.

The amount, direction, and intensity of precipitation on a site will affect a building’s design, such as the roof form,stormwater drainage, rainwater harvesting features and cladding type. Obtaining rainfall data for the region should be a part of the preliminary design brief. Testing the Surface Runoff water helps to pre-determine the typological uses it might have. When assessing a site, check for the frequency of past extreme weather events.

Rain replenishes the site; thus, it is essential to the project.

Precipitation has a natural coolingeffect over the building fabric; it proves favourable for buildings in hotenvironments. It is useful to balance the thermal performance of buildings andreduce the impact of extreme heatwaves. 

4.Channel the magical powers of the wind

Wind at different locations on the site can vary. Thus, the designer can understand wind direction and speed by using five basic principles: velocity, direction, pressure, density, and the venturi effect.  Using these principles for the benefit of the site will enhance the quality of the overall experience for the user.

Make a quick note of the direction of the breeze when on a site visit.

Air flows from high-pressure to low-pressure areas. For example, cross ventilation created by a positive pressure built upon the windward side of a structure and a negative pressure created on the leeward side. The prevailing wind direction becomes a determinant factor for locations of fenestrations, and provision of shelter for outdoor areas. Wind direction also affects humidity. Downwind from the water is more humid than upwind. Vegetation will also increase moisture in the air. 

5. All hail the energy of the sun!

The sun is the primary resource to increase the energy efficiency and comfort of an environment. With the sitelocation, spatial arrangement, orientation, window placement, daylight access and other design features, the architect can take full advantage of passive solar design. It also provides information for potential areas at the site where harnessing solar energy is at optimum.

Check out the sun path diagram on your phone, and understand the daylight hours on the site

The existing features like vegetation or earth mounds create an obstruction, hence providing shade. A sun-path analysis helps design and efficient shading devices apt for every weather. A site with limited access to the sun should use skylights/clerestories.

6. Notice the lush vegetation providing solace

Plants, trees and landscape elements provide shade and wind shelter, help manage stormwater and control soil erosion. Furthermore, vegetation provides a habitat for fauna and can make asite more attractive and inviting. Access to green spaces boosts the physical and mental well being of occupants.

The lush vegetation breathes life to the project

When assessing the existing topography and vegetation of a site, also include a study of access to winter sun, enhancement of cooling breezes, privacy, existing biodiversity, planted species– native or introduced and age of the existing planting. Observation of the site and adjacent sites will help understand the types of flora that grow well in the area.

7.  The Man-made existing infrastructure

During the pre-design stage, determining the services available on the site is essential. Services at sites will include sewer and stormwater drainage, mains water supply, power, gas and telecommunications services.

Sketch out on your plans the existingservices on the site

When services are not available near or within the site boundary, the process to get them available starts earlier than usual. It helps to calculate the costs and include them in the budget beforehand. Remote sites may have no economical access to any services and consequently, an early awareness of its need is taken into account.

In Conclusion- Here is a Checklist to get you started on your journey for energy-efficient design

Site is a like a treasure hunting map, filled with clues and riddles, when unravelled tells a different perspective of the story. Finders are the keeper!

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