Towards low technology - higher performance architecture, potentials of alternative construction in West Scotland

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2012
Thesis identifier
  • T13119
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Government targets for emission reduction currently put high pressure on the construction industry and everyone involved. Building operation uses roughly 42% of the final energy and produces 34% of all green house gases in the EU and about 50% of all global resources are transformed into construction material. The U.K. housing sector alone contributes about 25% to the countries' annual carbon emissions. Due this large impact, construction and building operation also have great potential to tackle the problems arising from unsustainable practice. The U.K. and Scottish government have specified ambitious objectives such as 34% emission reduction by 2020, the zero carbon policy for new homes by 2016 and Scotland's Zero Waste Plan for 2025 to this end. Additionally, the ongoing energy crisis presently affects developed countries on economic, political and social level due to their high dependence on fossil fuel imports motivating a faster development towards higher resource efficiency. Thus, energy efficiency targets are simultaneously efforts towards energy independence and self-sustaining by using resources with long-term local availability. Within the principles of simple function, ease of manufacture, ease of use, robustness and ease of maintenance, the concept of Low Technology can provide solutions to all highlighted points in a holistic design and construction approach. Considerations of climate, site, orientation and regionally available materials are primary to the concept focusing on the interaction with the environment in order to limit energy demand by maximising solar gains, indoor illumination and natural ventilation. Furthermore, the notion approaches construction on a local level by employing natural, regionally resourced materials, thus providing stable, localised economies, social security and healthy environments. Focusing on new build housing, this research aims to answer the question of appropriateness and feasibility of Low Tech and natural materials in Scotland. It is estimated that by 2050, approximately a quarter of the total building total stock will be new build. Accordingly, new homes will forms a considerable segment impacting on environment and economy. Within this context, potentials of a Low Tech idea were tested in a hygrothermal performance simulation in WUFI. Six natural material cases, categorised in thermal mass, insulation and hybrid construction, were tested against a Timber Frame Base Case in differing scenarios. The research results highlighted the overall good performance, operational cost savings as well as reduced environmental impact achievable within the combination of strategic building orientation, monolithic construction and natural materials. However, further benefits such as moisture regulative properties for mould growth prevention, non-toxicity of materials and accordance to the strict health and safety regulations and available skills among the labour force in the U.K. have been identified. Accordingly, Low Tech proved suitable for Scotland's humid climate and could provide higher building performance with low environmental impact and local benign materials.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2012
Former identifier
  • 946543