In recent weeks, the lack of rain in Gauteng has highlighted South Africa’s increasing water shortage and related concerns about unpredictable environmental change. How do we build homes, offices and neighbourhoods in a way that mediates these changes?
To illustrate, we can take a look at Stand 47. Situated in Lanseria, Monaghan Farm sees Winter temperatures drop below zero while Summer days can be stifling. The lack of dense trees to shade buildings and mediate the local climate adds to the harsh conditions experienced on the farm. However, the 43 degree high recorded during the latest heatwave marked a record.
This raises concerns in designing homes. First, can we rely only on design to provide passive climatic design responses when the climate itself is changing and we no longer know what ‘normal’ is? Second, do we need to start using materials that are able to absorb extreme temperatures in order to limit the variance we experience indoors?
At Stand 47, we have found that through design we can accommodate for the ‘normal’ climatic range found in the area using passive design strategies. But when normal changes, we turn to our materials and building systems. The use of Saint-Gobain’s hi-tech thermal insulation materials by Gyproc, Isover and Webber, provide the performance required to limit the internal temperature to a few degrees variance. In the heat wave on Saturday 31 October, although the internal temperature was averaging a hot 24-27 degrees during the day, it was nowhere near the unbearable 17-43 degrees outside.
The combination of passive design and hi-tech materials used in Stand 47 manage internal temperatures with a small fluctuation of 3 degrees, even when extreme conditions surrounding it fluctuate 17 degrees. This strategy gets us a little closer to maintaining comfort levels in the face of unpredictable weather patterns.