Add an informed story about climate to your design narrative
Glenn Murcutt was once known for camping out at a site before starting the design to understand its climate and ecology but not all architects have the scope or time to do this.
This page is designed to help you quickly orient yourself around some memorable climate take-aways so you can include them in your design thinking and narrative. The more you can incorporate your project’s climate into your design story, the more sustainable your design is likely to be, not only because you will be thinking about it but also because the client and the rest of the design team will care more about it too.
What this page is about
The main goal of this page is to offer a high-level summary of what the climate is like at the site you will be designing in. It is aimed at prompting discussion and a dialogue about the location leading to questions such as “what does this mean for our project?”.
We start with a statement about the type of climate your project is situated in and a short sentence describing that climate. This is designed to be something memorable and useful - summarising what this climate has to offer in 2 sentences.
We’ve then divided the climate into 4 seasons and attempted to describe each season based on the historical weather data we’re using for that season. Seasons are a great way to get your client’s head around how the climate changes over the year. What do the seasons have in common, how much do they change over the year? Which ones are extreme? These in themselves lead to different types of architectural responses and solutions.
Wrapped into the season our attempt at providing a “Weather report” for the season. If you wanted to describe the season’s weather as it relates to this building type in more literary terms, this could help. Note that for residential projects, it will often say “dark”, because residential buildings are typically used at the beginning and end of the day, and often when it’s dark.
There is also some high level information about cloudiness and wind for each season.
What to do with the information
Everyone likes to talk about the weather, so if you are not sure where to start when it comes to making a better building, start with something everyone can relate to. Use this information at the start of the design process to begin the process of including the climate in your design discussions with the client and your project team.
Here are some examples of how to start weaving an idea of a “climate responsive design” into the narrative:
The climate is characterised by four very consistent seasons, which provides a great opportunity for the architecture to be tuned to respond to these kinds of conditions. This design approach will improve the occupant experience for the building’s users by responding specifically to the challenges and opportunities presented by this kind of weather. The result will be a building that people look at and say “that building was meant to be here”.Seasons are all very different
We can see the climate changes dramatically over the course of the year - this is a site that experiences the four seasons to the fullest extent. Our design approach will be for the architecture to respond to this variation in such a way that it can be embraced and celebrated by the occupants. Although the building will need to provide shelter from quite extreme conditions at important times, the form and approach should find ways for it to allow occupants to embrace good weather when it is presented.
Other ways you can use this information:
Use the “Weather” descriptions for each season as design tests. For example, if the weather is “glorious” then a great test is to ask “how will occupants feel about this building when it’s glorious outside?” How can you make the design work so that the reaction will be positive?
Prevailing winds combined with season and average temperature can help you make conclusions about things like preferred places for entrances (maybe not facing prevailing wind in winter) and outside space (capturing wind in summer).
Sunniness by season can help you start to talk about the need for protection from the sun (if it’s sunny and hot, for example) or the need to bring outside light in (if it’s cloudy and cold, for example).
Ideally you can weave stories about the climate into your design narrative. Using terms like “Climate responsive design” “This building responds to the climate by… “ or “This building will adapt to the climate by…” set the scene for you to justify design decisions that could make for a better building.
Don’t estimate the power of aligning your client and design team about designing the building for the local climate. Your team may well be inspired to think more thoughtfully about their own disciplines if you are aligned around an idea of designing for the local climate.