Tian Yuan : The ideal and reality of environmental architects


In2002, in a residential project in Beijing, Tian Yuan, an architectrenowned for her "farewell to air conditioning and heating",confidently said that if the construction technology she had learned could bepromoted in China, "it would not only reduce the energy consumption ofbuildings in China by more than 50%, but also create huge social and economicbenefits in environmental protection and living comfort."

Thirteenyears later, the design company led by Tian Yuan covers more than10 provinces and cities in China, totaling 2 million square meters. Her companyhas been successful, but she is not satisfied: "Many people ask me, why issuch a good technology so slow to spread in China?"

Inthe past decade, China has added about 2 billion square meters of floor spaceevery year, and in some years it has even reached 3 billion square meters. Inthe face of China, the world's largest construction market, 2 million squaremeters is like a drop in the ocean

Industry,construction and transportation are the three most important parts of China'senergy consumption, of which building energy consumption accounts for about 1/3of the total social energy consumption. Compared with developed countries,China's building energy consumption is high, and about 95% of the existingbuildings are high energy consumption buildings.

"Thereis a lack of substantial policy support for energy-efficient buildings inChina." "If I have any ambition, it is that I hope to promote healthyand energy-efficient building technology in China, which has been widely usedin Europe, so that more Chinese people can live in healthy, comfortable,energy-saving and environmentally friendly buildings,"   Tian Yuan told Outlook.

Energycrisis creates "high comfort, low energy consumption"

InApril this year, the Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and The State Councilon Accelerating the Construction of Ecological Civilization were issued,pointing out that the construction of ecological civilization is an importantpart of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, affecting thewell-being of the people, the future of the nation, and the realization of the"two centenary goals" and the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenationof the Chinese nation.

"Overall,the level of ecological civilization construction in China still lags behindeconomic and social development," the opinion said. "Resourceconstraints are tightening, environmental pollution is serious, the ecosystemis degraded, and the contradiction between development and population,resources and the environment is becoming increasingly prominent, which hasbecome a major bottleneck constraint for sustainable economic and socialdevelopment."

"Europeexperienced two energy crises in the 1970s." "To this end, thegovernments of these countries have invested a lot of power, conducted a lot ofexperiments and research, and summarized the successful design strategy andeffective technical means, so that the design strategy and supportingtechnology of high-comfort and low-energy buildings have entered a fairlymature stage," said Tian Yuan.

In2002, in the Beijing Fengshang International Apartment (hereinafter referred toas Fengshang) project, Tian Yuan, who had just returned from studyingin Switzerland, and her supervisor Professor Bruno Keller, for the firsttime in China, demonstrated the potential of high-comfort, low-energy buildingdesign technology.

Thisproject relies on advanced thermal insulation external building envelopestructure, with replacement type healthy fresh air system and concrete heatingand cooling system, central dust collection system and other more than 30 newbuilding technologies, farewell to the traditional air conditioning andheating.

"Thekey to the strategic decision of high comfort and low energy consumption is tocarry out comprehensive design according to the local meteorologicalconditions, building material technology, economic conditions, etc., so thatthe natural temperature without equipment operation in the room is controlledto the maximum extent within the comfortable range between 20 and 26 ° C,beyond this standard and then auxiliary heating and cooling means." Incontrast, the current development of China's construction industry has moreserious problems of high energy consumption and low comfort, and more and morebuildings have to rely on a large number of heating and cooling equipment tosolve the problem of indoor undercooling or overheating due to the failure tofully consider meteorological factors in the design stage.

"Architectureis a century-long project, and people live in buildings for more than 90percent of their lives." Tian Yuan stressed that "the energyconsumption and comfort in the interior of a building have a great impact onpeople's health."

"It takes courage to simplify things."

"Accordingto our personal experience and testing, the indoor temperature of Fengshangthroughout the year is always maintained in a comfortable range of 20 to 26 °C, and the humidity is about 50%." Compared with the heating fee of 28yuan/square meter in the surrounding community, the heating fee of Fengshang isonly about 10 yuan/square meter, and the room temperature of the surroundingcommunity before and after the heating period will be below 15 ° C, and theroom temperature of Fengshang will not be below 20 ° C throughout the year." Tianyuan said.

Thetechnical parameters of Fengshang also include: the thickness of the insulationlayer of the external wall is 1 times thicker than the national standard, theheat transfer coefficient of the roof is 30% of the national standard, the heattransfer coefficient of the external window is 50% of the national standard,and the total energy consumption of the whole building is only equivalent to1/5 of the energy-saving standard in Beijing.

Thesuccess of Feng Shang, let the micro energy building technology advocated by Tian Yuancome to the fore. However, it is also the market pursuit that leads to the highprice of Fengshang - the average price per square meter in 2002 is more than10,000 yuan. As a result, Tahara often comes across a question: Willmicro-energy building technology bring about a significant increase inconstruction costs?

"Thisis really a misunderstanding of microenergy building technology." Tian Yuansaid that as a building technology, the principles of LOW-E glass and shadingdesign used in micro-energy consumption are very simple. Taking the constanttemperature system as an example, although the cost input of each part is verydifferent from the traditional design, the total investment cost will be lowerthan the traditional approach. "More figuratively, if the cost of making adress is fixed, then we advocate using good fabrics and classic cuts to impressconsumers, rather than advocating spending money on cheap fabrics and fancycuts, although there will be consumers willing to pay for this form ofthings."

Refusingto put down his principles to cater to and please the "market", thestubbornTian Yuan had to face some doubts. "My architectural design hasbeen criticized for being dull and lacking variety. For architects, thiscomment is very harsh, because most architects are afraid of no change, as ifno change equals no level. But for me, I think I can say my reason for doingthis design, and this reason is valid, then I am not afraid of others. Even inmy opinion, at a time when architects are deliberately trying to complicatebuildings for the sake of complexity, it takes courage to simplify."

Forexample, before taking over Fengshang, the original design of the project, onlythe window type was designed 44 kinds, and the gap between some Windows isdifficult to distinguish with the naked eye. "It's obviously designed forchange, but frankly, I don't understand it. One of the simplest reasons is thatmass production is easy to reduce costs, and so many specifications of thewindow type, obviously not easy to quantify production, not easy to install,then this pursuit of change is still meaningful? In my opinion, it is theability to create the most varied architecture with the least variety ofstructures, to satisfy the use of more functions, which is the best expressionof the architect's skill."

Dorational building design

Tian Yuan wasadmitted to Harbin Institute of Architecture and Engineering in 1979 to studyarchitecture. After graduation, I was assigned to Heilongjiang ArchitecturalEngineering School and became a teacher. "When I say I'm a teacher, I'mactually a student. On the one hand, I have just left school, and I need toconsult my colleagues, especially the dean of our department, about manyteaching matters. On the other hand, the department also sent me toHeilongjiang Architectural Design Institute for an internship for half a year,and I learned a lot from the old masters there, such as how to drawconstruction drawings efficiently."

In1988, after finishing his graduate studies, Tian Yuan became a teacherin the architecture department of Harbin Institute of Technology. Tian Yuan,who still pays attention to practical learning in her teaching post, vaguelyfeels that the theory and design practice she has learned in China are nolonger enough to support her to do really good architectural design. "Ifeel that our architecture seems to lack scientific quantitative standards, anddesign is mostly carried out by experience and sensibility, and I hope that mydesign is rational and supported by scientific reasons." For example,window size, architectural style, component size, cost control, etc., can havea systematic logical relationship."

Bychance, TianYuan met Professor Bruno Keller at the School of Architecture atthe Swiss Federal University of Technology Zurich, and became a postdoctoralfellow of the world-renowned architectural physicist in 1999, following him tostudy and promote healthy, comfortable and energy-saving building strategiesand technical measures.

Twoyears of study in Switzerland almost overturned her understanding ofarchitectural design. "I found that foreign design is really landing, themore excellent the architect, the more good at exploring resources, usingresources, saving resources." And the economic factor is one of theindispensable factors of the design. When architects talk about any project,they will talk about the short-term and long-term returns of their solutions.It also means that their architecture is designed to maximize the return ontheir limited investment."

Withthis understanding, Tian yuan returned to Beijing and found thatmost of the domestic buildings were "sick". "I see a lot ofbuildings that don't do what they need to do. They focus on form, fashion, andquality. They don't think about the whole life cycle of a building.

In Tianyuan 's view, architecture should be rational, healthy, comfortable andsustainable. "Then I, as an architect, strive to spend all my money ondesigns that meet those conditions."

TianYuan explained thattaking residential buildings as an example, it is generally believed that ahealthy and comfortable indoor environment needs to meet at least theconditions include: indoor temperature of 20~26 ° C, humidity of 40%~60% (in ashort time can be 30%~70%), indoor noise below 35 decibels, air quality perperson per hour to provide 30 cubic meters of fresh air. "What I want todo with the building is to make the energy consumption of the building as lowas possible while meeting these quantitative indicators."

Considerthe "short life" phenomenon of architecture

Sucha conflict of ideas prompted Tian yuan to think about some issues relatedto architectural design, but not entirely architectural design.

InSwitzerland,Tian Yuan saw that many years of houses were later turned into smallhotels, small shops, and even office buildings were transformed into hospitals,and milk processing plants were transformed into art universities. Comparedwith this, the domestic architecture seems to be a little"short-lived". "Most of our standard contracts for residentialdesign have a 50-year life span, which means the house will last less than ageneration."

Whatmakes TianYuan regret is that many buildings are designed to meet the requirementsput forward by the owners. With the changes of The Times, the functions ofbuildings need to change, but the variability of space is very limited, whichbrings many problems to the use and transformation of the whole life ofbuildings

TianYuan said that to doenergy-saving buildings, the need for substantial policy support. InSwitzerland, energy-saving buildings can obtain later benefits through heatpricing, such as building energy saving can pay less heating costs, so ownershope to continuously upgrade old buildings to save energy. The domesticmunicipal central heating system has not yet implemented the charge accordingto the use of heat, often a unified standard, not because of the low energyconsumption of energy-saving buildings less charge, "this actually hiteveryone to do energy-saving building enthusiasm."

"Theexisting code is concerned with whether the design meets the standards, but itignores whether the standards are met after the completion." Tian Yuansaid, "We have advocated for so many years of energy-saving buildings, howmany of the results are up to standard? And how many of the buildings that meetthe standards will benefit from their use?"

OnJune 17, TianYuan and his team cut the ribbon on the Hangzhou Yak Center project.This is the first time that the building concept and technology of health andcomfort, energy saving and environmental protection have been put into practicein a large office building in China.

Forthis day, TianYuan and his team have worked hard for nearly eight years. "In thepast eight years, I have been tight on quality and cost, because the investmentcost of the client is very limited, and I have high requirements for thequality of the design. I want to make it healthy and comfortable to function,but also worthy of the surrounding natural and historical landscape such as theQiantang River and the Six He Tower."

Inthe past ten years, Tian Yuan presided over the design of otherrepresentative projects including Beijing MOMA constant humidity constanttemperature science and technology residence, Nanjing Lang Shi InternationalStreet, Shandong Jining Xingtang Guocuicheng, Harbin Chenneng Xizhu Courtyard,Chinese People's Liberation Army 91st Central Hospital, Zhenjiang First ForeignLanguage School and so on.

"Wewill not stop making buildings that are healthy and comfortable, energyefficient and environmentally friendly," Tian Yuan said,"because I believe that a single spark will start a prairie fire."