A Chile office for a warmer world

Sensemaking / A Chile office for a warmer world

02 Feb 2011

Solar deflection and passive design keep HQ cool in the heat

Smooth curves, natural light... welcome to Chile’s greenest office. The new headquarters for private equity firm Empresas Transoceanica in Santiago looks nothing like a conventional commercial set up. But it is expected to use just one-fifth of the energy of a comparable Chilean office.

A wood-wrapped north facade deflects solar radiation, while allowing for natural light to pour into the office space, and a 75m-deep ground source heat pump uses naturally cooled water to lower internal temperatures. The local climate, explains Alex Brahm, the lead architect from Chilean firm +arquitectos, makes cooling, rather than heating, the main energy burden. Much of the efficiency gain is achieved thanks to passive design principles aimed at reducing exposure to sunlight (rather than intensifying it, as is the aim with such designs in colder latitudes, including northern Europe).

The HQ is expected to become the first in Chile to receive a gold rating from the internationally recognised LEED green building certification system.

Crucially, the scheme includes a three year programme to monitor how much energy the eventual occupants consume once the building’s in use, and encourage them to be more efficient.

It is precisely this issue that Martin Hunt, Head of Built Environment at Forum for the Future, identifies as a key sustainability challenge for commercial properties: closing the gap between a building’s design, and its actual performance in practice. “The design might be great. But if it’s not being used properly, that could drastically reduce its efficiency.” New ways of addressing this are being developed, Hunt adds. The introduction of ‘green leases’, where tenants have financial incentives to use the building in more environmentally friendly ways, are becoming increasingly prevalent, he says.

-Nick Chan

Image credits: +arquitectos

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