Sustainability in Spain
KES 01 - 14 - 2010

Thus far on our journey we have observed and experienced both historical and modern designs. Though implementation methods have advanced greatly since ancient times, design concepts seem to be very similar. Designers love to take full advantage of the natural environment and the aspects that it provides to us. As we continue to move toward a more sustainable world, we have developed new techniques and equipment. Similar to historical times, we are once again utilizing passive systems to create a more environmentally-friendly design. While on our tour of La Alhambra in Granada, Spain, I noticed a variety of aspects that contributed to a 'sustainable design'. With its beautiful gardens and dynamic water features, the Summer Palace provided a very relaxing outdoor environment. As the summers in Granada are extremely hot, the designers wanted a facility that would maximize a cooling effect to escape the hot weather. With this in mind, they developed a site of trees and flowers that were cooled by fountains and waterways. The exterior walls of the palace were designed with many apertures that allowed natural wind flow to enter and circulate throughout the interior of the space. A long, narrow pool is located in the center of these spaces to "catch" these winds and help to provide a cooler environment to those inside the palace walls. (The diagram in the top image shows the basics of this cooling system.) The overall concept of this passive design technique is simple and still used today. Wind flow and other passive systems similar to this allow us to avoid the overuse of energy and contribute to an overall sustainable building/facility/environment--WORLD. It is very impressive to think that these methods were developed in such ancient times and are still integrated into current building design. Our visit to Barcelona allowed us to experience sustainable design in a more modern sense. We toured through Olympic Village, an area that is very focused on energy production. One of the design intents of the project was to take advantage of the infrastructure that currently existed on this abandoned industrial area. They covered parts of it with photovoltaic panels. (An image of this energy-saving structure is shown at the bottom.) Its scale is massive, the group realized, as we walked under it to grab a closer look. It is located along the Mediterranean and faces south, designed to optimize its exposure to the sun. This energy efficient method is one of the many projects that Barcelona has implemented to become a more sustainable city. It is inevitable that we will encounter many more of these sustainable design techniques throughout the rest of our tour.

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