The fight against global warming has now become a global priority that is legislated by international conferences and regulated in the architectural field in multiple countries around the world, from Passivhaus in Germany to Minergie in Switzerland, LEED in the USA, RT2012 and RE2020 in France, QSAS in Qatar, and the various Green Building Assessments in Hong Kong or Taiwan. The field of architecture and building construction lies at the forefront of this battle: its products are globally responsible for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions through building operations (heating, hot water production, air conditioning and lighting) that represent 28% of the global CO2 emissions, and through the carbon footprint of the building materials (fabrication of the building materials, transporting them, elevating and assembling, recycling) that represent 11% of global CO2 emissions.
The main responses provided over the past ten years in this fight have been to reduce energy consumption (thermal insulation, airtightness, controlled ventilation) and to prioritise the use of renewable energies. These new thermal regulations have important consequences on architectural design and render obsolete many of the architectural strategies of the 20th century, both in terms of exterior forms and interior design. The challenge today is to reduce the energy consumed by the building, usually by better managing the building’s thermal insulation and air renewal, but we also have to work on the grey energy of construction, the carbon footprint of materials and recycling, often related to the heat required for fabricating the material. For example, for concrete, limestone must be heated at a temperature higher than 1450°C to get cement – a temperature that cannot be obtained by burning wood but by using fossil energy, whose caloric value is much higher than wood but with the inconvenience of not being sustainable and of emitting CO2 which contributes to global warming.
The studio explores different spatial design strategies to update the art of interior architecture in response to the above-mentioned challenges of our time. Students are invited to re-imagine their childhood house or any interior of a building made before 1970 and transform it into a zero-emission project. The process unfolds in two phases: research and design. First, students investigate the site and its location, its challenges and opportunities, including but not limited to the local climate, cultural- historical-social-context, materials and architectural typologies. Students analyse the building from the point of view of its thermal performance and map its current weaknesses and problems in order to correct them with creativity.
Second, students adapt their findings to invent programmes and architectural expressions.