Bioclimatic architecture Buildings of the past, buildings of the future

In May 2010, new thermal regulations will come into force for buildings in the French Overseas Departments. All new dwellings will have to comply with specific architectural and technical criteria, the aim being to encourage the development of more comfortable dwellings that consume less energy. These criteria derive from what is known as a ‘bioclimatic’ approach to building. Man has always used the materials he has at hand to build shelter. For a long time forests provided the necessary construction material for Amerindian, Creole, and Maroon architecture. From this common basis each culture devised and adapted its own form of dwelling depending on where they lived and their way of life. Another common characteristic of the various sorts of traditional dwelling is the use of features allowing a cool and ventilated home. If you look at old Creole buildings, for example, you will notice that the roofs jut out around each floor, fanlights* above the doors and windows, louvres*, shutters, and even open eaves. The same is true for traditional Amerindian buildings where their apparent simplicity makes them very comfortable for their occupants. But recently cheap energy and unlimited confidence in technology replaced the traditional skills of the elders, and people started to think they could ignore environmental concerns. These imported types of building constructed using new and not always appropriate materials led to new needs. Hence private air-conditioning ...

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