Energy and Low Income Tropical Housing
This research programme is intended to identify, and then begin to propagate, methods of reducing the energy consumption of low-income housing in tropical countries. The topic of 'energy efficient', 'sustainable' or 'eco' housing has attracted huge interest in Europe and rich countries generally since about 1990. This has led to new designs, materials, publications and regulations. However for tropical housing, whose energy usage is not dominated by winter heating, very little has been done to make them more energy-sustainable. Now however the consequences of its often-poor design are beginning to bite. Living standards and populations are rising yet resources like land, timber and fuels are shrinking. The cost of housing and of energy imports is therefore rising, infrastructure is over-stretched, deforestation continues, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise dangerously.
Starting with recent European experience, tropical vernacular architecture and building physics, many designs will be assessed, short-listed ones analyzed in greater detail and a few selected for more detailed testing and dissemination/demonstration.
Energy is used in creating houses and again in occupying them. The programme is therefore divided into separate studies of how good design can reduce 'use' energy and reduce 'embodied' energy. Energy savings in turn generate cost savings (of particular interest to the poor) and greenhouse gas savings (of global benefit).
Included within the study of reducing use energy will be a specific examination of low-cost ways of improving (indoor) thermal comfort and combating occasional heat crises. Global warming and rapid urbanization are both likely to exacerbate overheating. One of the four tropical partners (Thailand) has a particularly severe humid-tropical climate. The programme will concentrate on how good building design can achieve 'passive' cooling or reduce the energy needed for 'active' cooling.
Within the study of embodied energy, the programme will identify scope for reducing the energy intensity of building materials by changes in their method of production. This is particularly needed in Africa, where two of the partners are located. So there the programme will conclude with piloting the training of artisanal manufacturers in less energy-intensive methods of producing building materials. Local builders will also be trained in better methods of their assembly and of being more sparing in their use of materials. Thus for example walling can be made less energy-intensive both by changes in architecture, by innovations in brick-making and by use of interlocking rather than cement to assemble them. The artisanal training has the objective of substantially reducing the cost and the embodied energy in low-cost housing. This in turn can improve access to housing and increase employment in building.
Three other channels for improving energy efficiency in housing will be explored, namely the updating of Building Codes which are sometimes applicable to cheap housing, the updating of architectural education and improving the 'sustainability' understanding of policy makers in the housing sector.
The project partnership comprises two institutions in East Asian countries (Thailand and China), two in East African countries and two in UK with long-term involvement in technologies for international development. Five institutions are universities; one is a building research agency. The active partners have skills in housing construction, architecture, town planning, and engineering and policy formulation.
The University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
The University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China
National Housing and Building Research Agency, Tanzania
King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand
Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda
University of Warwick, United Kingdom