With the effects of global warming upon us, architects and building owners need to mitigate its impact in the built environment. This is not a new idea, but the necessity for design that protects against volatile weather, rising temperatures, and insect-borne diseases is now more pressing than ever. Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the Building Resilience website, a tool that connects community planners, home builders, architects, and engineers with building science, climate data, and community resilience resources. This is crucial information designers and building owners need if they want to confront the effects of climate change.
As daylighting manufacturers, we have some thoughts on how daylighting can be used to reduce the impact of global warming on the built environment.
Daylighting that can withstand Severe Weather
Because of global warming, weather events like hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes have become more powerful (Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013 have both been partly attributed to global warming).
But just because nature has become more dangerous doesn’t mean we should barricade behind steel walls. Instead, robust daylighting systems should be utilized. By incorporating daylighting into architecture, occupants remain connected to the outdoors, and the structure reduces its carbon footprint.
It’s important to use daylighting systems and materials that possess excellent water weepage and can withstand high wind loads. These attributes will be determined by the system’s glazing and framing.
Polycarbonate is one of the best forms of glazing when it comes to strength and durability, and it by far outperforms glass (polycarbonate is 250 times more resistant to impact than safety glass), as well as fiberglass reinforced panels, or FRP (polycarbonate is 4 times more resistant to impact than FRP).
Additionally, the system framing must have elements that facilitate excellent water control and leak resistance, like properly placed weep holes and water stops. An example of a highly resilient daylighting system is EXTECH’s LIGHTWALL 3100LS polycarbonate wall system, which meets ASTM E-1886 and E-1996 tests for hurricane impact / windborne debris at clear spans of 8 feet. It is an excellent daylighting product in the face of torrential weather.
Protection Against Intense Heat
With global warming comes rising temperatures. Data has uncovered a long-term warming trend, and at this rate, temperatures could rise as much as 8 degrees by the end of this century (though that does not sound like much, a global increase in this scale would have dire outcomes). Even if carbon emissions worldwide are drastically cut, escalating temperatures are a factor humans must face.
With warmer temperatures comes the threat of increased solar heat gain (the temperature inside a structure that results from solar radiation). If precautions are not taken when choosing the daylighting glazing, people will either bake in a convection oven, or the cooling system will have to run at non-stop full capacity – neither choice is ideal. To protect against these scenarios, glazing that blocks infrared rays is recommended for daylighting structures. Polycarbonate is one of the few materials that can effectively and economically block infrared radiation.
Though humans can take many actions to reduce global warming, its effects will never be completely vanquished; mitigation is the only way forward. By accepting this, architects and building owners can be a leading force in climate change preparation – if they have the foresight now to build structures that deal with global warming’s impact, humankind will be safer, happier, and quite possibly, live to one day stop climate change for good.