University of Calgary

Dr. Caroline Hachem on archetypes of solar optimized communities

Submitted by eguilten on Fri, 2014/08/15 - 10:45am.

Dr. Caroline Hachem recently joined EVDS as an Assistant Professor in the architecture program. Her research focusses on developing a holistic design approach to buildings and neighbourhoods to improve quality of life while reducing environmental impacts.

"Sustainability is becoming an increasingly prevalent term in many domains related to human activities and habitation," she explains. "It is particularly pertinent to architecture, which is primarily concerned with the provision of closed and open environments for human activity and livelihood. Maintaining a high quality of life while minimizing negative environmental effects is, thus, a major objective of architectural design."

Dr. Hachem's current research explores optimal archetypes for new neighbourhoods of new state-of-the-art high performance solar buildings. By designing neighbourhoods and simulating their energy use for different locations and regional climates in Canada, this research will establish how factors such as site layout, density, building heights, building footprints and the heterogeneity in building types impact energy demand and solar access, and consequently the potential to achieve net-zero energy communities. Findings from the study will help with the establishment of policy to support development of low carbon neighbourhoods.

"The design of projects in the built environment, be it urban or rural neighbourhoods or individual buildings or complexes, normally starts with architectural design and the architect is often the superior authority in all design aspects. It is therefore imperative that the architect is aware of and is competent in handling environmental aspects of the design from the earliest stages," she says. In terms of both reducing demand and increasing output, sustainability considerations like energy efficiency and resource utilization involve highly technical skills. Holistic integral design of building systems, high performance building envelope design, energy production systems such as PV technologies, and the use of sophisticated software for energy simulations are all key to energy-efficient design.

Her research program considers buildings not only as a system, but also as an integral part of a larger system, which is the built environment. This research is directed at the overall performance of buildings, including building systems, building envelope performance and current issues of building technologies, and their environmental impacts and interactions with community designs. Shortcomings in building performance lead to extensive environmental, economic, and health consequences; flawed design decisions in the early design stages result in deficient building performance which leads to increased energy consumption and poor indoor air quality. "A deep understanding of building envelope performance and building operations, as well as building interaction with the environment, should be therefore accentuated in professional training and research programs," she adds.

Dr. Hachem believes that a successful design of high performance, energy efficient buildings and communities can both reduce negative impacts on the environment and lead to a positive impact. Such design needs a strong association between research and application (design, construction and operation), and, by implication, collaboration between disciplines and trades (urban environment, architecture, and building engineering).

Dr. Caroline Hachem joined EVDS in July 2014, and has extensive professional, research, and educational experience in architecture and buildings engineering. To learn more about Dr. Hachem's research, visit her faculty profile.