During recent years, energy efficiency and sustainability became important issues in the architecture and construction research areas. These issues are particularly relevant for building sector because on environmental impacts is responsible for almost a third of all carbon emissions and consumes more raw materials than any other sector. To mitigate these impacts and achieve a more efficient construction, is urgent to develop new and more sustainable building designs. In this sense, vernacular architecture is a type of construction that should be studied, since the strategies that are now the basis of sustainable construction are derived from aspects and characteristics of this type of architecture.
In the long evolution of vernacular buildings, pragmatic strategies have been developed, triying to answer to a set of constraints – climatic, lithological, economic and cultural – of the surrounding environment, which was reflected regionally in different ways of building. After a period of abandonment, consequence of a rapid industrialization that led to the homogenization of the different construction approaches, vernacular architecture is regaining interest because presents a balanced relationship between what is currently defined as the three dimensions of sustainability. On this topic it is consensual the need of studying these constructions of the past to learn lessons that could support sustainable development. The use of local materials and vernacular strategies in the design of buildings, developed on the need to adapt to a specific territory and climate, will contribute to reduce waste, energy consumption and hence carbon emissions, among other environmental impacts. Furthermore, promoting the use of vernacular materials and technologies may have a positive impact on local social and economical developments.
The ambitious targets and the increasing demand in quantifying the performance of buildings, made necessary to understand quantitatively the effectiveness and feasibility of vernacular strategies. Studies conducted for the Portuguese context have focused mainly on qualitative analyzes of such buildings, so there is a need for complementary quantitative data in order to find scientific justification that validates or refutes the potential to adapt these strategies to contemporaneity.
The reVer: Modeling the life-cycle performance of Portuguese vernacular buildings – contribution to the sustainability of buildings, is an exploratory research project funded by the Portuguese national funding agency for science, research and technology (FCT- Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) (ref. EXPL/ECM-COM/1801/2013). This research project is being developed in the University of Minho, in the Centre for Territory, Environment and Construction (CTAC).
The project’s main aim is to study the sustainability principles of Portuguese vernacular architecture and to explore new ways of integrating this knowledge into contemporary building design. The project aims to contribute to the development of knowledge through a systematic and quantitative study about Portuguese vernacular buildings. In this sense, it will be created a knowledge database about the several vernacular building technologies and design strategies, which it will include information about the contribution of those to the improvement of the life-cycle performance of buildings at the level of the three dimensions of sustainability: environment, society and economy.
The research will focus on the study of a set of case studies, with specific features and located in different climatic zones of Portugal, seeking to understand them qualitatively and quantitatively. In this direction, the R&D objectives of this project are: i) to characterize the materials and construction technologies used in vernacular architecture; ii) to assess the environmental performance of materials/construction systems commonly used in these constructions; iii) to assess the passive climate responsiveness of the case studies and their indoor comfort conditions; iv) to develop and calibrate computer tools for parametric analysis under dynamic conditions to be used by the design teams; v) to develop and disseminate knowledge about vernacular architecture and construction technologies in order to encourage its preservation and the use of its principles in the design of new constructions.
Therefore, it is intended to reduce the gap of technical information on the performance of Portuguese vernacular architecture and of its building techniques, supporting building professionals with more detailed information to be used both in the refurbishment or regeneration of vernacular buildings as in the design of new buildings that use vernacular building strategies. Moreover, at social and economic levels, the scientific validation of the vernacular technologies may promote their use and contribute to the protection and enhancement of the vernacular heritage and it may also contribute to the development of local economies by creating employment in the several related areas.
| top of page |