Developing a Method to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Modern Buildings by Using Traditional Passive Concepts of Resource Efficiency and Climate Adaptation

Developing a Method to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Modern Buildings by Using Traditional Passive Concepts of Resource Efficiency and Climate Adaptation

S. Schelbach

Department of Resource Efficiency in Architecture and Planning, HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany

29 February 2016
| Citation



Around the world, humans have adapted building forms over the course of centuries to fit external, locally specific parameters such as climate, topography and available building materials. Thus, these structures are generally erected using locally available resources and adapted to fit the regional climate. These concepts were critical in the time before industrialization when neither the building materials, nor the energy and technology necessary for mechanical climate control systems, were available.

Even though numerous studies on the concepts of traditional passive climate control exist, the applicability of these concepts in modern buildings is generally not explored. This study addressed this gap in the research by developing a method as a tool to improve the energy efficiency of modern buildings by integrating traditional passive concepts into the planning process. The paper describes an exemplary investigation of traditional residential buildings in the Upper Town of Thessaloniki, which has been the basis for developing the tool. The results of this case study showed that adding traditional concepts to the current legal requirements would improve indoor comfort and thus building energy performance.

The tool could also be used for educational purposes to make students of the built environment aware of the great diversity of energy efficient heating, cooling and ventilation methods present in traditional buildings. This presents them with the opportunity to practice applying such alternative building designs and make comparisons with the alternatives.


building simulation, climate adaptive architecture, natural ventilation, passive climate control, passive cooling, resource efficiency, thermal comfort, vernacular architecture


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