'GREEN' OR ECOLOGICAL BUILDING
Here we publish excerpts from an interview by 'green' architect Elias Messinas
for the Messinia-Guide. You can also visit the links at
the end of the page.
Messinia-Guide > Elias Messinas, Architect, Ph.D. Urban Planning*: What is considered today as alternative, is what was natural and is forgotten
Excerpts of interview (read the entire interview)
Messinia Guide: Could you tell us some things about ecological building?
Ecological building and bioclimatic architecture are an effort to revive, in a way, responsible architectural techniques. What we call “alternative” in the past was natural and now is forgotten! Even ecological food or natural birth are considered “alternative” in our days (!) while in fact they are the natural ones! We have reached a point where artificial is accepted as natural and vice versa! It is like Aldus Huxley’s prophecy being realized! In our days ecological buildings are considered an “alternative” architectural method, but in fact it is the “real” one, described even by Roman architect Vitruvio. It is the responsible conception of architecture that takes into consideration a building’s characteristics. This does not mean that it takes up more time or is more expensive. It just means that it is done in an appropriate and responsible way.
Messinia Guide: In a few words, what is ecological building?
Ecological building is the construction technique that views building in its whole, so that as many factors as possible are taken into consideration, and creates buildings friendly to the environment and man. Meaning that they are functional and aesthetic, but also interact with their surroundings, both the direct ones, such as orientation, lightning, shade, air, land quality, view, architectural tradition, and also the indirect ones. This is done by selecting materials that do not overburden environment during their production and demolition, do not pollute internal air and do not consume energy. Ecological building is, in part, the wisdom of architecture that comes from the past but does not require living in it. On the contrary. Applying ecological building principles is a return to the initial conception of building, which is not just about cost and square metres, but sees buildings as living organisms that communicate and interact with climate, area and man. My opinion about the application of ecological building is, quoting the architect Alexandros Tompazis, that we must “solve” the building itself before turning to technological solutions. This means that buildings should have a good relation with the surroundings and he proposes simple solutions, such as orientation, insulation, natural light and heating from the sun, but also shade during the summer, natural air conditioning with windows and Aeolian chimneys, thermic mass and creation of bioclimate with natural vegetation and water. Furthermore, selection of the materials used should be done according to the Life Cycle Analysis in order to make them compatible to man and the environment. As my colleague and friend Kostas Tsipiras mentions in his books, land should be examined according to geo-biology, in order to make sure that there are not any geopathogenic knots under the place we sleep. Finally, and after having completed the basic steps, the owner, according to their financial condition, could then apply other – more expensive –solutions, such as systems for renewable energy sources (photovoltaics, wind generators, geothermy, etc), mobile shades, mobile mirrors, computer programmes for a “clever” house that would save and produce energy, etc.
Messinia Guide: What is the response to the application of ecological building?
Ecological building is, in my opinion, an one-way road. This is obvious from the EU Directives regarding the sector of ecological materials and energy performance of buildings that are applied also in our country and will be applied to a bigger extent, even though Greece has delayed its harmonization with Europe (e.g.: application of the EU Directive 2002/91 about energy certification of buildings is already 11 months late!) I emphasize this because buildings are responsible for the 40% of international energy consumption, more than transports and industry! A few days ago in Lachti, Finland, European partners made suggestions about reducing energy consumption in transports and buildings by 20% until 2020. Energy saving and application of legislation requires sensitized and educated citizens and professionals. Therefore it is, in my opinion, a matter of informing and sensitizing public opinion. To this direction aims also the creation of the Holistic Architecture and Ecological Building Association (S.OL.AR. www.s-ol-ar.gr), created this year by mechanics and architects from all over Greece. One of the Association’s main activities is spreading knowledge, not only inside the Association, where the “older” members teach the younger ones principles and techniques of ecological building, but also seminars, meetings and exhibitions open to the broad public. The Association’s objective is to turn the country as much as possible towards ecological building and renewable mild sources of energy in the building sector. Also, with my initiative and the participation and support of organizations and Associations, the Ecoweek has been inaugurated (www.ecoweek.gr). Its aim is also to inform and educate people about saving energy. It begun in 2005 in Aegina on the occasion of the World Day of Environment. For 2007 we have scheduled events all around Greece. I really believe that, in order to preserve life on this planet, we have to change at least one everyday practice. Ecological building is among the most important ones!
Important note: Since April 2010 the situation in Greece changed. The Guidelines for Energy Conservation in Buildings (KENAK) was signed by the Minster of Environment (YPEKA) setting the path for passive solar design and ecological building to be the necessary - and only - path in construction. Read FEK 407B / 9.4.2010 for more details.
* Elias Messinas is President of ECOWEEK.
Images in this page (from top to bottom): Ecological and bioclimatic stone masonry tradition-inspired private house in Mani, Messinia, Peloponese (under construction, Elias Messinas Architect); Ecovillage in the desert (preliminary design, Elias Messinas Architect); Stone masonry bioclimatic house in Aegina (under construction, Elias Messinas Architect); Bioclimatic private house in Sfentouri, Aegina (Elias Messinas Architect).
Links for 'green' ecological building
New Regulation for Energy Conservation in Buildings FEK 407B / 9.4.2010
New Regulation for Recycling Construction Debris FEK 1312B / 24.8.2010
Articles on 'green' architecture and ecological building
in Athens News:
Architect Elias Messinas, his wife and three daughters live in this 125 m2 house on Aegina and spend a fraction of the amount other families do on household utilities...