Design Brief: Design For Your Climate

October 1, 2002
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Table of ContentsBy understanding climatic conditions that are specific to a project's location, design teams are able to develop climate responsive building designs. The result is a building that utilizes less energy and provides a high quality and comfortable environment for the occupants.

Sun, land, and water interact in complicated ways throughout each day and throughout the year, and the result is what we commonly refer to as weather. These interactions produce daily as well as seasonal temperature, humidity, and wind patterns that can vary substantially between locations in close geographic proximity. California, in particular, has many diverse climate characteristics that occur across the state. Yet, many architects and engineers develop their design strategies for new buildings without full consideration of the impact of regional and sitespecific climate conditions.

Climate-responsive design is a strategy that seeks to take advantage of the positive climate attributes of a particular location, while minimizing the effects of attributes that may impair comfort or increase energy requirements. Designers who strive to develop comfortable, low-energy buildings can enjoy the benefits of climate-responsive design by considering five basic points in the course of designing new commercial buildings.

  1. Understand climate zones and microclimates.
  2. Understand the basic physiology of human thermal comfort.
  3. Control the sun to reduce loads and enhance visual comfort.
  4. Use thermal mass to improve comfort and efficiency.
  5. Select space-conditioning strategies that are climate responsive.
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