Do you live in a home that will allow you to save 75 out of every 100 euros on electricity, air conditioning and hot water bills? The answer is not so clear cut, according to the data. According to the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE), “81% of homes in Spain are in the last three energy rating positions (E, F or G)”. This means consuming three times more than necessary, paying for it and polluting, since housing is the third source of CO₂ emissions, after transport and industry, according to figures from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Technology allows us to reduce up to 75% the energy consumption of the buildings where we spend most of our lives. However, why is it not implemented?
An emblematic case of efficient building is the current headquarters of the Andalusian Innovation and Development Agency (IDEA), built over a decade ago by architects César Ruiz-Laria, Eduardo Prieto González, Antonio Gómez Gutiérrez and Jaime López de Asián. He envisioned the project, chosen unanimously among 35 European proposals, as a living organism, with passive solutions, some inspired by Andalusian tradition, and with the inclusion of techniques that would allow the external structure, the skin, to be produced. Used to turn into a machine capable of and exchange energy. The result is savings of up to 75% in consumption compared to another building of the same volume and use.
A building that saves and generates energy
César Ruiz-Laria wrote in a book about his work, “We can and we have the technology to reproduce the physical and chemical behavior of a tree-like organism, beyond its poetic or formal qualities.” As such, the building was constructed with internal “organs” that form exchangers that naturally condition the air, light wells that reduce the need for artificial lighting, solar chimneys that remove superheated air, and a network of structural pillars that are part of the ventilation system
The building’s mitochondria, the building’s mitochondria from the power plant that supplies the headquarters, are on the roof and façade, which behave, according to the architects, “like the skin of a living being, reacting to weather conditions”. . , This epidermis, or crust, houses 650 square meters of solar thermal collectors and 500 photovoltaic panels complemented by a biomass boiler designed to supply the remains of nearby olive trees.
“We worked from the beginning on a good design adapted to the climatic requirements of the place. The architecture may not respond in the same way, although it seems to be very clear in Seville as in Asturias or Madrid. Because the weather conditions completely is different”, explains now, after ten years of operating the headquarters of the Andalusian agency, Miguel Díaz, architect of the team led by César Ruiz-Laria, an expert in sustainability and head of the RLAB research laboratory.
The operating plan aims not only to reduce energy demand, but also to generate it through three axes: a design that requires a minimum of resources through passive architecture, integrated within that architecture facilities that act as exchangers, and implement renewable energy technologies.
In this way, the internal system takes advantage in the warmer months of the currents of the Seville tidal effect, which lift winds in the late afternoon to introduce them into the building and cool it. “We think of architecture as an organism that has to breathe,” says Díaz.
Another example of energy saved is related to natural light. To take advantage of this, instead of looking to the future, he reconsidered traditional architecture and designed an atrium (a large central space) covered by an intricate skylight inspired by the “mocrabe”, a decorative element of traditional Andalusian architecture . Peninsula. from the 12th century and which uses coffered ceilings to reflect light.
“At first they did not have material resources, but they had one very important thing: time to think”, explains the architect. The “combat skylight”, he says, “works very well because, on the one hand, it produces shade, but it takes advantage of the greatest amount of light, both in summer and in winter, but not heat. Had it been an easy task, he would have kept the glass”.
We understand architecture as an organism that has to breathe
Miguel Díaz, architect of the team of César Ruiz-Larrea, expert in sustainability and head of the RLAB research laboratory
And to transform the facade into a power station, Ruiz-Laria’s team patented a system that takes advantage of the circumstances of each orientation. “We saw the amount of radiation reaching each façade and decided the best solution was to create an energy mesh, dividing it pixel by pixel and interacting with the external environment in each area of the building depending on which was the best response.. that is to say the south façade becomes a skin of photovoltaic pixels to capture that light, other areas are ventilation pixels and others we have part of the facilities . With a skin, the building adapts to the needs”, details the architects.
why don’t you
The headquarters of the Agency for Innovation and Development of Andalusia shows that it can be built efficiently. So why is 81% of the housing stock still not there? Díaz believes that all parties involved are not always on the same page: “Architects, engineers and industrialists really need to be able to think about projects and move forward in this line hand-in-hand.” have to match”.
Another aspect highlighted by the sustainability researcher is the lack of knowledge on the part of the promoters of the technologies available and what is needed. Kev Abhari, a researcher at the University of San Diego, also raises this problem with architects and design professionals, who, in his opinion, “have been slow to integrate elements such as smart sensors into their work and adapt to new technologies.” For example, sensors can adjust room temperature to the number of occupants or turn off lights in an unused space. However, according to Abhari’s study, out of nearly 300 professionals, 70% of those surveyed said that although they trust the technologies and would be willing to incorporate them, only 10% have seen themselves in the design of their development projects. considered capable enough to be used in
In this confusion the price comes into play, very sensitive to both the plaintiffs and the housing developers and the one on which Díaz believes is at fault. “There is a misconception that designing in this way, that a bioclimatic building is more expensive. This is not true and I am saying this from my own experience”, he insists. In this sense, he gives the example of a housing complex in Madrid where objects were modified to make them more sustainable to consume less energy. “When we increased the insulation of the façade and improved windows and doors so that heat would not escape, we were able to virtually eliminate the number of installations”, he commented.
But while barriers and prejudices to new construction are being dismantled – employers themselves promote many initiatives for sustainable construction and half of recent constructions are already A and B – the biggest challenge is Spain’s aging housing stock. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), more than half the buildings (50.8%) were constructed before 1979, when there were no regulations for the insulation of façades.
As Marta Val-Locera, president of the Superior Council of Colleges of Architects of Spain, points out in the document Sustainability keys to speed up home renovation process in Spain, “In a built-up park made up of 25.7 million homes, of which more than ten million of them require rehabilitation, it will be necessary to intervene in a deep and general way”. Diaz agrees. “Spain has an obsolete park that needs to be renewed and revitalized, but already on the march.”
And here apart from bureaucracy money again enters as a major element. For Jose Carlos Velazquez, a 54-year-old hotelier who is currently renovating his home in Seville, the 12,000 euros he has saved has been invested in renovating the kitchen and bathrooms. “It doesn’t give me more and I can’t ask for credit or waste time and money processing help that I don’t know they are going to give me. I have to request a loan and I pay 75 for electricity per month Euros can pay more, but not the fees and loan costs, and less now because they are more expensive, although I know that, in the long run, it will pay off”, he affirms.
Braulio López, a consultant specializing in reforms, makes other accounts: “Work of 5,000 euros to improve energy efficiency can receive a subsidy of up to 40% and a reduction in personal income tax (IRPF) fees. Therefore, that the total work, which would be just over 1,200 euros, would be amortized in two and a half years with savings in electricity and gas. For communities, the accounts are similar. In less than four years with savings of 10,000 euros per neighbor The work will be amortized and with this, the asset will be revalued.
The Ministry for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda includes support in the recovery, transformation and resilience plan to achieve “significantly higher energy recovery rates than current ones”. Also, tax deduction is applicable on the amount invested in rehabilitation works of houses and residential buildings. These vary depending on the improvement achieved by certification: 20% if heating and cooling demand is reduced by 7%, 40% if non-renewable primary energy consumption is reduced by a third, or A or B is achieved. primary residence and up to 60% for similar functions in residential buildings.
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