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Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Urban Development Institute of Australia & Shaping Mackay
SMART ARSE
Designing for the Tropics - Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004

Troppo Architects - 25 years


Mackay - Climatic context and built response
Sustainability - What is and what is not
The BCA - Energy Efficiency Provisions
Life and Lifestyle - The ‘burbs
The City - What is it?
Our Cities - The problem
The Bounded City - The solution
The Bounded City - In practice

Apologies...
Troppo ADELAIDE

25 years on

TOWNSVILLE
BYRON BAY

DARWIN

PERTH
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
25 years of housing for the tropics

Troppo’s approach:
be regionally based
be regionally appropriate
be a response to climate and local setting
promote a sense of place
be emotive
be dynamic - adjustable
connect indoors with out, or outdoors with in
be non-constant
embrace informality
...
Troppo is Australia’s third most awarded practice…ever

These fundamental tenets bear little resemblance to current trends


Designing for the Tropics
Design
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Current trends in the designing of the built environment refer to:
engineering
management
quality management
quality assurance Engineering
triple bottom lines
risk mitigation
legislation
worst case scenarios
worlds best practice Engineering
industry standards
safety and security
De-humanise the process of the generation of places for people

Troppo’s approach to the design of the built environment is based on

SKILL (knowledge, practice, aptitude, understanding, expertness, dexterity) Design


Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Troppo’s approach was originally invoked as a response to the
aftermath of the aftermath…of cyclone Tracy

Architecture failed to meet any of the criteria that guide troppo’s work

Post-Tracy architecture was an engineered box designed for the sole


purpose of staying put in a major cyclone.
Flat roof
Minimal overhangs
Small windows
Lots of concrete

The box failed on every non-cyclone day

Troppo reassessed what made places comfortable for people...


Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
The Four Principles for Climatically Responsive Housing

Benchmark for predicting performance

Performance drove an aesthetic.

A. Promotion of cooling breezes


…to induce air movement over the body

B. Ventilation by convection
…to reduce the build up of heat

C. Reducing radiation of heat


…from building elements to occupants

D. Sheltering of walls and openings


…to filter the elements to best effect
Promotion of cooling breezes
Ventilation by convection
Reducing radiation of heat
Sheltering of walls
and openings
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Ten Patterns of Content

Troppo’s work reflected an aspiration to be a part of the place

1. Access …ease of movement in, out and around


2. Support servicing …recognition of a life support system
3. Physical comfort …perceived to offer conditions different to outside
4. Space for human activity …provision for each type of activity, inside and out
5. Heirarchy of privacy … different levels of interpersonal contact and intimacy
6. Promotion of environmental association … caring for the surrounding environment
7. Adaptability …activities are relocated at choice
8. Promotion of social contact …activities intersect with the activities of others
9. Storage of belongings …an hierarchy of display, security and accessibility
10. Promotion of economic determination …there is opportunity for creative activities
There is ease of movement in and out of There is recognition of a life support
the dwelling by people, occupants and system
otherwise, and that movement is linked
to the respective public routes or paths
for movement both on and off site.
1. 2.
the ten patterns of content
The inside can be constantly There is provision for each type of
perceived to offer climatic conditions activity both inside and outside,
different to the outside, and there is including wet, lounging, concentrating,
no mechanical filtering. intimate and social (and these spaces
overlap appropriately)
3. 4.
the ten patterns of content
There are differing levels of There is a caring for the surrounding
interpersonal contact and intimacy. environment, either actively or
intellectually. For best benefit this care
will be shown to shared space.
5. 6.
the ten patterns of content
Activities are relocated at choice, and There are social activities with
other additional activities can be acquaintances, or personal activities
reasonably accommodated intersect with the activities of others.

7. 8.
the ten patterns of content
There is an hierarchy of display, There is opportunity for creative
security and accessibility for all activities.
consumer belongings.
9. 10.
the ten patterns of content
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
A clear need existed in Darwin in 1980 to readjust public opinion or
the understanding of the meaning of the term housing.

The engineered response to a single climatic event quite simply


failed to deal with the complexities of shelter.

Troppo took on the challenge of reinventing house and the results


now speak for themselves.
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Designing for the Tropics
Troppo Architects 1980 - 2004
Mackay
Climatic context and the built response
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
Moderate climate:
Warm summer
Mild winter
Substantial (seasonal) rainfall
Significant diurnal shift
High humidity (wet season)
Clear need for summer design bias

Notwithstanding the odd exceptionally hot day the climate of Mackay


is highly conducive to a life outdoors

Passive design is readily employed to good effect


Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
Buildings

Tropical design techniques should be employed

1. Promotion of cooling breezes

2. Ventilation by convection

3. Reducing radiation of heat

4. Sheltering of walls and openings.

Diurnal variation allows internal thermal mass to assist in moderating extremes

The rhythmic rise and fall of ambient temperature from one day to the next can be
harnessed, passively, to store either heat or cold
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
4.00am Internal temp./ external temp.
Temp.

2.00pm Comfort level

Time LIGHT
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
4.00am Internal temp./ external temp.
Temp.

2.00pm Comfort level

Time LIGHT

8.00am
Internal temp.
Temp.

6.00pm Comfort level

Time MEDIUM
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
4.00am Internal temp./ external temp.
Temp.

2.00pm Comfort level

Time LIGHT

8.00am
Internal temp.
Temp.

6.00pm Comfort level

Time MEDIUM
12.00pm
Temp.

Internal temp.

Comfort level

Time 10.00pm MASSIVE


Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
Buildings should offer a variety of spaces with diminishing degrees of shelter:

Mass construction (Resistive)


Lightweight (Responsive)
Verandah (Minimal)
Outdoor (Nil)

Occupants choice

Opportunity
Temp.

Time 2.00pm 7.00pm 10.00pm

Exploit diurnal shift and materials characteristics


Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
As buildings become closer the lesser degrees of shelter become less relevant:

Privacy becomes an issue (acoustic, visual)


Mutual shading becomes effective (low level sun) More communal living
Microclimates are set up (play a role)

The generation of a microclimate plays a more significant role as buildings become


closer and together may mitigate climatic effects

The city represents a condition where the issues of proximity tend to lead design
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
Although microclimate will tend to govern, lightweight elements
will still be valuable
Upper story ‘vents’
Verandahs
Annexes
Awnings
They will offer different environmental conditions

Vertical stacking

The microclimate of the street will play the most significant role
in dynamic thermal performance in city centres as this will
effect all users to varying degrees and will not be controlled by
mechanical means

Design for amenity of the external environment of the city


street is therefore paramount
Designing for the Tropics
The built response to the climate of Mackay
Amenity refers to a range of characteristics:

Thermal comfort Microclimatic conditions


Shelter from rain Continuous is best
Sun and shade Continuous shade is best in the tropics
Wind conditions Moderate extremes
Movement …just movement
Acoustics Traffic noise, etc
Service Water, recycling, rubbish, seating, etc
Stopping spaces Passive recreation, at nodal points
Direct connections Pedestrian travel along natural
movement paths - goat tracks
Opportunity to interact with people
etc.
Sustainability
What is sustainable?
What is not sustainable?
Designing for the Tropics
Sustainability - What is and what is not
After 25 years of designing for climate we face significantly larger
challenges, but the need for climatically responsive and regionally
appropriate built environments remains:

Sustainability is now the focus of attention, but what is sustainable?

More sustainable is un- sustainable

Sustainability is steady state

Sustainable is sustainable, there are no degrees

Urgency has become apparent in only the past 10 years...

We seem to be of the opinion that we can engineer a solution


Designing for the Tropics Sustainability - What is and what is not
NRR Consumption

0 Time
NOW

Exponential increase in:


•energy demand
•population
•depletion resources
•fossil fuel reliance
•habitat depletion
•extinctions...
Designing for the Tropics Sustainability - What is and what is not
NRR Consumption

NRR Consumption
0 Time 0 Time
NOW STEP 1

Exponential increase in: Linear increase


•energy demand
•population
•depletion resources
•fossil fuel reliance
•habitat depletion
Designing for the Tropics Sustainability - What is and what is not
NRR Consumption

NRR Consumption

NRR Consumption
0 Time 0 Time 0 Time
NOW STEP 1 STEP 2

Exponential increase in: Linear increase Continuing current depletion


•energy demand
•population
•depletion resources
•fossil fuel reliance
•habitat depletion
Designing for the Tropics Sustainability - What is and what is not
NRR Consumption

No more depletion…at all

0 Time
SUSTAINABILITY

1. Dramatic voluntary change

2. Dramatic involuntary change

Moderation is of little use:

More sustainable is un- sustainable

Sustainability is steady state


The BCA
Energy Efficiency Provisions
Designing for the Tropics
Addressing Sustainability - The Building Code of Australia
Sustainability in the Australian built environment is being addressed
primarily through the Energy Efficiency Provisions of the Building Code
of Australia (BCA)

The code defines ‘comfort’ levels and limits construction systems and
parameters in order to maintain ‘comfort’ with the aid of artificial means

The Code currently applies to new residential buildings only

Demonstration houses are being commissioned in various regions with


the intention of providing publicly accessible examples of good design

The Building Code of Australia is the legislative tool for implementation


Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
Part 2.6 ENERGY EFFICIENCY

OBJECTIVE

O 2.6 The Objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by efficiently using energy.

FUNCTIONAL STATEMENT

F 2.6 To reduce Greenhouse gas emissions, a building, including its domestic services, is
to be capable of efficiently using energy.

PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT

P 2.6.1 Building
A building must have, to the degree necessary, a level of thermal performance to
facilitate the efficient use of energy for artificial heating and cooling…
Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
What does the BCA do?

The BCA controls aspects of house design to, supposedly, efficiently use energy

The code prescribes:


• minimum insulative standards for building elements R-value
• maximum allowable glazed area %age floor area
• minimum ‘ventilation opening’ area %age floor area

Utilises computer software to


model performance and
determine ‘comfort’ and
test for compliance with minimum standard legislation
Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
Example: Climate Zone 1

A shading projection must be a permanent feature

Single clear glass - no overhang - 18% of floor area


Single clear glass - 2000 overhang - 40% floor area

A building must have, to the degree necessary, a level of thermal performance to


facilitate the efficient use of energy for artificial heating and cooling…

The maximum annual energy load value may be increased by 20MJ/m2 if:
A solar hot water supply system having a minimum of 2 solar collectors and a Square metres?
storage capacity of not less than 270 litres is installed to serve the building No HWS?
Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
What does the BCA not do?
reduce materials consumption
reduce required infrastructure
improve public transport
maintain natural heritage
encourage building re-use
stabilise the housing market
enhance social equity
maintain historic values
improve accessibility
reduce car usage
improve public health
encourage economic stability
provide places for people
ensure population presence
encourage regionalism
protect natural public assets
etc...
Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
What does the BCA not do?
reduce materials consumption
reduce required infrastructure
improve public transport
maintain natural heritage
encourage building re-use
stabilise the housing market The code does not deal with
enhance social equity ANY aspect of sustainability
maintain historic values other than greenhouse gas
improve accessibility emission
reduce car usage
improve public health
encourage economic stability
provide places for people
ensure population presence The code does not motivate
encourage regionalism
protect natural public assets
etc...
Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
Sustainability is a collective responsibility.

Oversimplifies a very complex and dynamic issue Not a single house


Is designed for ease of implementation designed by Troppo
Implies that the house itself is the problem prior to the
implementation of the
Removes any conscious decision on the part of the community
code requirements
Denies collective recognition of the problem in the first place could now legally be
The code compliance tool (software) is fundamentally flawed (Zone 1) built

The code simply allows us to purchase a clear conscience We now spend a great
deal of design time
The code gives us the impression that we have engineered the solution trying to mitigate the
problems imposed by
the code
The code implies that the house is the problem - this is not the case

Very short feedback loops are required to motivate sustainability


Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
Hot water service

A HWS is assumed and points awarded

Ambient temperature

Ambient temperature is the yardstick - meaningless

Minimise maximum

The aspiration is only to minimise maximum ambient temperature

Outside is inappropriate

Climate outside is assumed inappropriate

No recognition of physiological response

Physiological response is everything - we are human


Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
No recognition of human desire

Preference for being outside for example is ignored

Provides exceptions and concessions

Poor performance is excepted/accepted

Requires that shading projections be permanent

An operable house is not properly rewarded (dumb)

Does not acknowledge the use of external space as part of a house

The value of outdoor living space is diminished

Does not allow for the zoning of a building

Conditioned and non-conditioned space does not help


Designing for the Tropics
The Building Code of Australia - Energy Efficiency Provisions
How can we achieve dramatic reduction in energy consumption, resource depletion, habitat
destruction?

The solution dose not lie in the design of individual houses

It does not lie in energy efficiency legislation

Nor does it lie in a ‘tweaking’ or re-working of our existing housing trends

The answer lies in completely reconsidering our ways of life and the resultant or generative
patterns of development.

We must have this debate.


Life and Lifestyle
the ‘Burbs’
Designing for the Tropics
Life and Lifestyle - The ‘Burbs

‘Lifestyle’ A marketing term designed to make you buy things


- a new car
- a new house
- a home entertainment system
‘Lifestyle’ is the antithesis of ‘life’
(Th.C.C - Safety, it’s a lifestyle)

‘Life’ Bears little relationship to ‘Lifestyle’


The two tend to be mutually exclusive

‘Consumption’ Is a symptom of a ‘lifestyle’ focus.


Designing for the Tropics
Life and Lifestyle - The ‘Burbs
Suburbs universally are sold as offering a lifestyle

Our suburbs are typically car-centric, resource hungry, mono-cultures

Economically exorbitant
Ecologically catastrophic
Socially destructive
…but so safe and secure…

Relatively speaking, in such an environment...

The thermal performance of individual houses is of no consequence


Designing for the Tropics
Life and Lifestyle - The ‘Burbs
Why do we persist with such forms of development? Automobile domination
Social dislocation
The feedback loop is far too long. Poor service access
Environmental degradation
We do not yet, or we choose not to see the real costs of our suburbs Massive infrastructure costs
The City
What is it?
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
The purpose of the city;

A means of promotion of communication and exchange developed over millennia to


accommodate human activity
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
A CBD alone is not the City. The City is made up of a number of functional elements:

Retail
Commercial
Residential
Industrial
Agricultural

These elements each have a role to play in a complete city, the city is the sum of these
component parts

We must get used to designing the whole city as an entity

We must allow feedback loops to inform us of our successes and failures


Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
We consider, in particular, residential as a separable entity - it is not!

It is a key component of a whole city

We mitigate the mutual effects of city and residential by separation

Private automobiles mitigate the resultant tyranny of distance

Geographical separation lengthens feedback loops

…and the true costs become someone else’s problem (in the future)

We have been doing this for far too long with obvious results
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
Mackay exhibits a quite typical pattern of development

Originally founded in an appropriate location - Pioneer River

Selected for reasons of commerce and proximity to resources

Focused growth was followed by decentralisation, likely


fueled by cheap land and supported by the automobile

This did not, as seemed to be the case, come without cost

The cost of ‘the great Australian dream’ is now being paid but
we still cannot seem to break the cycle
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?

$1 BILLION residential and commercial


development…

…house more than 15,000 residents.

…would comprise 5,000 lots.

“For tomorrow’s way of living”

“We’ve got to bring this vision into reality”

To help reduce water consumption residents would be


encouraged to have less lawn…

…exciting $1 Billion development

…what is certain is that the twin cities will expand and


sensible planning has to be settled and in place now.
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
Development or Re-development
The notion of developing land is in direct contradiction with the requirement for sustainability
Re-development is the only acceptable approach within the definition

Our cities typically display a significant degree of history in both built form and structure.
Historic buildings are our memory They tell us from whence we come

Structure refers to the general planning Must be understood to be based on


defunct and inappropriate design criteria

Our cities are a product of a different era and they maintain references to design parameters that
once were, but are no longer.
We must acknowledge that we continue to design to the wrong brief
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
The contemporary city
The challenge now is to transform these cities into contemporary, sustainable centres.

Two major attributes will be fundamental to redevelopment:


Design for People
Facilitation of Exchange

A contemporary city is a vehicle by which communication and exchange occurs across a


very broad range of endeavour.

Transport is only to facilitate the above. Ideally it will consume minimum space.
Designing for the Tropics
The City - What is it?
The goal must be to create a comfortable and attractive range of climatic zones that are
conducive to and encourage communication and exchange.

Pragmatics and practicalities MUST be the fundamental consideration.

We legislate ‘beauty’ in our public realm


This more often than not comes at the expense of pragmatics.
Pragmatic design will produce places for people.
Places for people will have their own uncontrived dynamism and resultant beauty.
Our Cities
The problem
Designing for the Tropics
The Australian City - The problem

On the one hand…

…and on the other


Designing for the Tropics
The Australian City - The problem

Buildings address the street insofar as the planning


rules say they must

Street beautification regulations apply...


Designing for the Tropics
The Australian City - The problem

Streets...
...are beautified
...and engineered
…treatment of street is legislated
…and cars reign supreme
The Bounded City

The Solution?
Designing for the Tropics
The bounded city - The solution?
The Boundary of or the Bounding of a city

Historic cities have endured and now enjoy the blessing of boundary:

ZWOLLE GRONINGEN VENICE


Designing for the Tropics
The bounded city - The solution?
Acknowledgement of the finite.

These cities clearly and consciously acknowledge the finite nature of


resources (land)

They are compact and they continually re-develop

These cities have defined edges

An edge allows a break from microclimatic conditions


It offers an opportunity to step out of the city
It offers broader vistas or views

Defined and accessible edges offer occupants opportunities


Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
The compact city offers an array of benefits to: Reduced infrastructure costs

Government Opportunity for economic public transport


Maintenance of natural heritage
Business
Encourages building re-use
Residents
Offers a more stable housing market
Enhances social equity and cohesion
Maintains historic values
Increases accessibility (equitable)
Reduces car usage
Improved general health
Economic opportunity and stability
Iconic, model destination city
Reflect local character and conditions
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
And the list goes on...

Examples of compact cities are plentiful...

Places for people


Around the clock presence
Reduced elemental exposure (buildings/people)
Mutual protection
Appreciation by end users
Multiple use streets
etc.
...
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
…and diverse
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
They are:
regionally appropriate
climatically responsive
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
They are functional and social
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
They are of the place
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City
…and they are for people
Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City

They have a beginning and an end…an edge


Designing for the Tropics
The Compact City

No contrived ‘street beautification’

Streets are pragmatic, functional,


shared public spaces
The Bounded City

In practice
Designing for the Tropics
The Bounded City - in practice

TOWNSVILLE
3km

Population
150,000

Density 5:1

Current footprint
3,000,000
Designing for the Tropics
The Bounded City - in practice
Streets
Streets and buildings
Edges and surrounds
Choose your future