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Passive Architecture

by José Mario Calero Vizcaíno

In the present times we face a situation where the human species is habituated to live in ways that consume energy and resources in unconscious manners affecting negatively the environment. The natural processes of life have exceeded the limits of nature, including the human population rate growth, thus - there is an excess in the dependence of consumption and production on over-processed products (including dwellings) and energy need that create waste and pollution which are non-resilient for the earth’s natural mechanism or system. Passive architecture promotes a healthy inner-environment that pretends to supply the present dwelling needs with natural: energy, means, resources, and systems. Ecologists and environmentally conscious people search for bioclimatic environments to live-in and Passive housing is an alternative to the present and diverse architectonic market.

Passive Architecture is a contemporary, liveable, simple shelter-system that provides space to human beings, and some other domestic animals, with characteristic-all environmental attributes that are inherited form a conscious, premeditated, scientific and simple architectural project-process or an inherited evolved and renovated traditional building that adapts to the contextual climate and geographical conditions applying some technological advancements into its functional and facility systems, pretending to have an energetically autonomous lifestyle for the inhabitants which generates economic freedom and life quality thus more happiness than generic architecture. The energetically solution in passive architecture must be clean, efficient and smart, trying to use renewable sources of energy to provide some of the energetic demands of the liveable passive simple shelter-systems.

All the aspects of the climate and its different seasons must be analysed and understood to be able to create an efficient and passive architecture. From: snow to sun to wind and the rest of the weather factors must be analysed. The scientific definition of comfort must be understood in order to provide a quality Passive liveable-system. In the past the phrase: “Form follows function” was a motto that inspired modern architects from the industrial era to create architectonic classical icons that prevailed and transcended in the art history and Cosmo-vision of human kind. In the present and after the environmental devastation of the industrialized era we must integrate the environment to this past motto, thus: “Form follows function and the function must be environmentally conscious.”

The sun is the main source of renewable energy received by the earth thus Passive architecture is solar architecture. The understanding of the sun and its geometrical incidence over the emplacement is a primarily requirement to be able to create good passive architecture. The technical methods to understand the geometrical incidence of the sun allows to incorporate a very acute and reliable geometry in the openings of the sun receiving surfaces of the architecture to promote a benevolent inner environment from the solar energy; promoting solar income in the winter and solar blocking in the summer depending on the latitudinal and geographical climatic conditions.

Architecture is the response and evolution of the basic human need to shelter; thus, in order to create aesthetic, efficient and functional architecture the architects have to be: aesthetically gifted, cultural, environmentally conscious, human caring, humble, sensible, simple, value oriented people that understand the human needs. If we make a fast and simple analysis of the human system we understand our basic needs, like:

A clean and comfortable surface where to rest, sleep and love;

A shelter or comfortable inner space where to dwell from the climates adversities;

A table to crate;

Clean water to drink;

Food to eat;

People with whom to share one’s life;

The apparatuses and or systems or mechanism to conserve food;

The apparatuses and systems that allow us to evacuate our waste production;

The apparatuses or facilities or resources to clean ourselves and our possessions;

The need of the suns light and energy;

The proper spaces and tools to be intellectually active and creative;


Besides human beings have social needs and social organs that generate different collective needs like: Government, industries, education facilities, cultural facilities, health facilities, working spaces, sports facilities, leisure and recreation facilities, etcetera…

Passive architecture must respond to an accurate understanding of the local environment. A polar latitude typical passive shelter-system will not be efficient or comfortable in an equatorial environment. The Earth has a complex and varied environment and animals learn how to live and create their shelter in adequate ways creating living-systems or ecosystems that are simply efficient relying on the local resources and the inherited genetic knowledge to build thus the waste generated from their natural building systems is completely resilient to the earth and their pollution is environmentally harmless. The comparison between the ways the animal species create their habitats against the way the contemporary and complex city dwellers live is a clear and vivid manner to understand that the human evolution must consider and learn soon form the other living species of this earth incorporating their genetic knowledge to build and inhabit their dwellings into our own building and living processes.

Passive architecture aims to create comfortable inner space by simple means like - right orientation of the building and an accurate comprehension of the environmental context like: natural light, natural shade and natural ventilation. In the present Cosmo-vision we still rely on: artificial and complex systems, expensive provided energy and machines that give us the habituated everyday life quality modern people are so accustomed to. Passive architecture pretends to promote and incorporate clean energy electro-domestics apparatuses and efficient lightning to illuminate darkness.

In the present time new computerized software and accurate geographical and climatic information are developed and made more efficient and simple to use, besides academic and scientific studies are being realized that provide a solid platform for the happening of the “Passive Architecture” movement to assume its role in the present-future and promote an evolution to the generic architecture form the past that created health problems and dependences on energy provided by powerful private and public suppliers that created monthly acquisition systems to collect and economical retribution from the inhabitants, making the inhabitants of this past and present architecture dependant on the energy which costs money thus limiting the minds and spirits freedom.

The materials that are used in passive housing must tend to be local and natural. Their lifecycle must be long and the manufacturing and building process simple and as less pollutant as possible. The transportation must be efficient and the locality of the source of materials must be close to the emplacement in order to save transport waste and energy.

One difference between traditional evolved architecture and passive architecture can be that: traditional building techniques create modular or systematic way of creating and manufacturing or building which processes have been refined through generations and generations form the past to the present using the local resources and energy like energetically incomes to the living process system to make the best and simplest architecture and building techniques with what is handy. Traditional architecture is normally simple and practical and inherently aesthetical. 

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