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SUSTAINABILITY IN TRADITIONAL AND VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE OF IRAN - An approach to Climate Responsive, Passive and Low Energy design strategies


Defining Sustainability The basic objectives, Principles and characteristics of sustainability What is vernacular architecture?

Sustainability and Vernacular architecture.. In order to progress in the future of architecture and sustainable building, it is important to first gain knowledge of the past and employ these strategies as a well-balanced, methodical whole to achieve optimum energy efficiency. Climate Responsive Architecture - Passive and low energy design Reducing energy consumption, using natural resources and providing comfortable, healthier and sustainable living spaces are the aims of a climatically responsive sustainable building design.


In the past, due to lack of access to modern heating and cooling equipment, it was only the intelligent architecture of the buildings that enabled people to tolerate the extremely hot summer and severe cold winter. Iranian builders understood the environmental conditions and have presented a series of logical solutions based on natural climatic strategies that can be integrated in design to provide thermal comfort. Not only is the Iranian vernacular building tradition itself still alive, but there is much to be gained from the knowledge of a highly developed technology which makes such ingenious use of natural resources without the consumption of additional power.

The objective of this project report or study is to give an overview of Iranian .vernacular architecture in the perspective of sustainability
Diverse climate in Iran, has led to different architectural styles and construction in different areas but there were few principles or fundamental beliefs, to which the traditional and vernacular architecture of each region was committed to. Iranian traditional and vernacular architecture has developed over millennia in response to its diverse climatic conditions, often using advanced passive, low-energy techniques to provide for human comfort; strategies that are integral to the form, orientation and materiality of the buildings. One of the main characteristics of Iranian traditional architecture is being responsive and consistent to the climate, making the best use of renewable energies, such as solar energy, and wind for heating and cooling the buildings, showing their proficiency in using natural energies.

Optimum utilization of natural resources, minimum - energy consumption and use of fossil fuels are other distinguished features of vernacular architecture of Iran. One of the main principles of Iranian traditional architecture is self-sufficiency. It means building materials usually achieved from the place which they were going to be built. Stability and strength of forms is a key for Iranian architecture- it gives unique life to the structure as well as durability and performance; Traditional architecture of Iran is Organic and is formed with extreme respect to site, geophysical specifications of earth and geographical conditions.


Traditional and vernacular architecture of Iran has been explored to find the role of climate in the formation of the buildings with key emphasis on the low energy and passive cooling strategies through comparative analysis of different climatic regions both at urban and building level.

Firstly to classify Iran into four main climatic regions: 1- Mild and humid climate (southern coast of Caspian Sea) 2- Cold climate (western mountains) 3- Hot and dry climate (central deserts) 4- Hot and humid climate (southern coast of Iran)

Secondly to analyze the Climate responsive and energy efficient design strategies in different climatic regions, on three levels/scales Macro Medium Micro

Urban Context
-Urban form and Texture -Street Pattern -Building form -Orientation

Building Envelope
-Building spaces/ elements like courtyard, porticos, etc. -Roofs -Walls and Openings -Materials

Passive Energy Techniques

- Shading Devices - Courtyards - Wind Towers etc.

Case studies and reason for selection: Ghilan province (mild-humid climate)
Ghilani architecture is very different from that in other parts of Iran. In Ghilan compact dwellings have been found that faced outwards and instead of adobe, timber was the chief building material used. These were not only eco-friendly but also Earthquake resistent.

Kandowan village (Cold climate)

Carved out of volcanic rock, these cave residences have survived seven centuries. The underground spaces benefit from lower temperatures, thus reducing the energy requirement for heating in this cool region. A perfect example of eco- friendly, organic, green, and sustainable architecture.

City of Yazd (Hot-dry climate)

Of all historic cities of Iran, Yazd, with thousands of historic residential buildings and a large number of traditional structures contains the largest uninterrupted, historic and sustainable urban fabric in Iran. The urban and architectural features in Yazd enabled people to adapt to very hard climate condition through millenniums. Studying the residential tissues in this area shows that the architectural characteristics of the ancient and traditional parts of habitation complex are according to the new paradigms of ecoarchitecture, sustainability and ecological city theories at a time when the global environment appears increasingly fragile. Applying nature -returnable materials and minimizing the use of fossil fuels were among the aim points of sustainable architecture of this city.

Bushehr (Hot- humid)

Bushehr is one of the most unique cities which connects two kinds of architecture (introversion and extroversion) and has these both architectures simultaneously consistent with the conditions of regional climate for its residents' comfort.

Case study selected for demonstrating best utilization of natural renewable sources of energy by the Iranian traditional architects: Boroujerdi house..a historic house in Kashan, Iran

Purpose of the Case Study: To understand how thermal

comfort was achieved by integrating various passive cooling strategies. Thirdly to compare and demonstrate how regional architecture of Iran was appropriate with climate conditions and environmentally sustainable. To make adjustment with nature, Iranian native architects in different climates of hot, dry and semiarid of Iran have created a lot of innovations. Air traps, under grounds, water reservoir and ice chests are some examples of these sustainable innovations.The following case studies prove the proficiency of their creativity in water and energy conservation particularly: a. Shavadan or Underground spaces in Dezful b. Qannats or Underground water reservoirs c. Yakhchals or Underground ice chests in Yazd Shavadan




To discover the sustainability lessons that can be learned from the Iranian ancient experience in the optimum and efficient use of natural energy of sun and wind To unearth traditional environmental devices and their potential for possible future buildings. To search for ideas for sustainable building pervasive in our lost constructional traditions.