Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Climate, Buildings, and Interior Design

Interior climate of a building is considered in the context of its inhabitants, their occupation or habitation style within a building shell. Inhabitants occupy or inhabit a building by carrying out activities, for duration, in an appropriate location, and with the help of distinctive tools or amenities. Occupants also use many systems that exchange energy with the environment, and thereby change the quality of environment in the interior space. Such systems affect heat, moisture, air velocity and quality of air. 

Inhabitants are persons with a unique perceptive capacity, and so are affected by climate differently.

  • Inhabitants :     age / sex / physical state / psychological state / nature of acclimatization
  • Activities :        location / duration / amenities

Many different types of activities take place in a building shell, and often occur simultaneously or sequentially in the same place. Some activities, however can be shifted to other locations or staggered in time, depending on the participants' age, sex, liking, choices, partners, the availability of amenities, etc.

An interior climate starts to be relevant only after occupation of the building by its users. More often than not building designers and architects have a very generalized view of the likely user. In many circumstances buildings out-last the original client and so, are occupied by another set of users.

Architects or building designers provide climatic solutions within the overall style or the regimen of the building. They sometimes override the  activity specific climatic requirements and orientation specific siting of activities. Where such adjustments are minor, a lay person can accommodate own-self, by appropriate improvisation. But in complex situations, Interior designers have to modulate the buildings, usually working from inside of the building shell.

Amenities support the in-habitation of a building. Activities are preferably anchored to a location, if they require acutely modulated spaces, complex or large size amenities, and run for substantial duration of time. On the other hand, demountable and relocatable amenities provide a freedom to the user to modulate the living style according to not only the affective climatic aspect, but degree of personal acclimatization, psychological and physical state.

Acclimatization, psychological and physical states are very variable and often slow to occur, so the occupants must have the facilities to continuously modulate their living style.

Time scheduling is very important for efficient in-habitation of a building. We need to use the same spaces for different functions. We must also take advantage of the natural resources by time scheduling and orienting the activities. Timings of most of our activities are dependent on the biological working of our body, which in turn is dependent on Sunrise and Sunset timings. Whereas orientation is closely linked to the seasons (solar inclination). Schedules and locations of all activities need adjustments, and one solution never work for all days of the year.

An interior climate is perceived for the actual inhabitants of the space. The users  have personal likes and dislikes about the environment. Users have different levels of acclimatization. But most important of all, the inhabitants age over a period of time. All these factors are ever changeable, so unlike buildings which are designed to be more or less static, interiors are conceived to be ever transient. Systems, parts, components and materials used must be replaceable  or capable of adjusting to the varied demands.

An interior climate is experienced by a user with many different qualities of garments. A formal area like conference room or hotel lobby attire is likely to be heavy, multi layered, and dark coloured, compared to a verandah of a club or backyard of a house. Even in interior space there are likely to be small spaces or pockets like cubicles, alcoves, cabins, wardrobes, change rooms, toilets, passages, lofts, where due to the restricted movement of air there is inefficient heat transfer, buildup of moisture and pollution of air.

Interior spaces are accessed from exterior spaces or other interior spaces. The environmental conditions of both are likely to be very different. The impact caused by sudden change in environment can be delayed or diffused by increasing the transfer time and space. Transit areas such as verandahs, lobbies, corridors, foyers, etc. if not available at threshold zones, climatic shock is very severe. For example a person coming in from a high radiation zone like a road will have skin temperature at its highest level, to dissipate the body heat the perspiration is operating, when he enters an area with cascading blast of cold air, immediate area of the  skin cools due to high evaporation causing vascular -restriction. But rest of the body may not have dissipated all the heat yet.

 A good interior layout or space planning offers or exploits the variegated climatic zones within an interior space. Such zones must be recognizable locations through the form and size, or often through the colour and texture of the furnishings and other finishes. There is always the scope of confirming or going against the nominal perceptions, such for examples bright areas are warmer and darker zones are cooler, or enclosed corners have lesser air movement.


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