Green Building in Ancient Rome


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a small research project completed in our spare time over two weeks during summer university

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Green Building in Ancient Rome

  1. 1. The Villa & Sustainability Lessons Learned from Ancient Rome Maljetë HOXHA Leandro GATTI Ivan MANYONGA Anca SCAESTEANU │ Green. Building. Solutions. │ Vienna Summer University | August 13, 2011Revised January 4, 2012 – A. Scaesteanu
  2. 2. the vast ROMAN EMPIRE in 3 short slides...The Roman Empire was at its largest under Emperor Trajan in 117 CEwith 6.5 million km² (2.5 million mi²). The imperial city of Rome wasthe largest urban center of its time, with a population of aboutone million people.
  3. 3. Roman societyHierarchical:• slaves (servi) at the bottom,• freedmen (liberti) above them,• free-born citizens (cives) at the top. Women had some basic rights (owning property) but were not allowed to vote or take part in politics. The basic units of Roman society were households and families.
  4. 4. Economy & Welfare Roman dominance over foreign areas led to internal strife. Senators became rich, but soldiers, who were mostly small-scale farmers, were away from home and could not keep up their land. The increased reliance on foreign slaves and the growth of large farms reduced the availability of paid work.Income from war, trade in the new provinces, and tax farming created neweconomic opportunities for the wealthy, forming a new class of merchants,the equestrians.Violent gangs of the urban unemployed, controlled by rival Senators,intimidated the electorate through violence. In trying to placate the growingunrest of the plebeian and equestrian classes, the Senate passed land reformlegislation to redistribute major patrician landholdings among the plebeians.
  5. 5. Environment & ClimateRome currently has a “Mediterranean climate”: warm tohot long dry summers and mild to cool winters withlong wet periods. Native vegetation is adapted tosurvive this climate, but much has been replaced byagriculture.
  6. 6. Environment & Climate“In the north, houses should be entirely roofed overand sheltered as much as possible, not in the open,though having a warm exposure. But on the otherhand, where the force of the sun is great in thesouthern countries that suffer from heat, houses mustbe built more in the open and with a northern ornorth-eastern exposure. Thus we may amend byart what nature, if left to herself, would mar.” – Roman architect Vitruvius, De architectura, 15 BCE
  7. 7. Roman Climate Change?A recent study of the size variations of ancient treerings provides data on historical climate (January2011, Science journal), though not the reasons forthe climate changes noticed. The study concludedthat Europe experienced warm, wet summersideal for agriculture during times of socialstability and prosperity, coinciding with therise of the Roman Empire (300 BCE to 200 CE)and that during the 3rd century CE extendeddroughts occurred at the same time asbarbarian invasions and political turmoil (thefall of the Roman Empire).
  8. 8. Climate & culture vs building type
  9. 9. Building OrientationVitruvius, De architectura:“We shall next explain how the special purposes of differentrooms require different exposures, suited to convenienceand to the quarters of the sky. Winter dining rooms andbathrooms should have a southwestern exposure, for thereason that they need the evening light, and also because thesetting sun, facing them in all its splendor but with abated heat,lends a gentler warmth to that quarter in the evening. Bedroomsand libraries ought to have an eastern exposure,because their purposes require the morning light, andalso because books in such libraries will not decay. In libraries withsouthern exposures the books are ruined by worms and dampness,because damp winds come up, which breed and nourish the worms,and destroy the books with mold, by spreading their damp breathover them.”
  10. 10. Building Orientation (continued)Vitruvius, De architectura:“Dining rooms for Spring and Autumn to the east; for when thewindows face that quarter, the sun, as he goes on his career fromover against them to the west, leaves such rooms at theproper temperature at the time when it is customary touse them. Summer dining rooms to the north, because thatquarter is not, like the others, burning with heat duringthe solstice, for the reason that it is unexposed to thesuns course, and hence it always keeps cool, and makesthe use of the rooms both healthy and agreeable. Similarly withpicture galleries, embroiderers work rooms, and painters studios, inorder that the fixed light may permit the colours used in their workto last with qualities unchanged.”
  11. 11. Urban Planning: LayoutThe town plan adopted by theRomans in the construction ofcities in the Empire ischaracterized by perpendicularNorth-South and East-Weststreets (thistles and decumani),dividing a city intorectangular blocks.Rome was an exception to thisrule and had no planned pattern.Its urban layout wasinfluenced by the shape ofthe land, streams, hills, andpartially drained marshes.
  12. 12. Infrastructure: Water When wells, local springs, and the Tiber River became polluted, Romans developed aqueduct technology (312 B.C.E.) to bring clean water from further away. Once in or near Rome, the water poured into a large, covered catch-basin to deposit sediment. The water was then distributed through free-flowing canals, lead pipes, and terra-cotta pipes to storage reservoirs and then through lead pipes (fistulae) to users. The number of connections to private customers were limited; most Romans had to get their supply of domestic water from public fountains. Having running water at home was so desirable that Romans were constantly bribing water officials to tap an aqueduct.
  13. 13. Infrastructure: Wastewater The Cloaca Maxima (“Greatest Sewer”) drainage system, with a main outlet into the Tiber River, was built by Etruscan engineers around 600 BC under the orders of the king of Rome. It combined sewage and storm runoff together. It had few private connections, such as some of the wealthier homes. Parts of the system were built underground and others were probably initially an open drain with a cover added later. The waste stream was kept moving by the continuous flow of water leaving the public baths.
  14. 14. Infrastructure: Roadways Roads between cities were well- built for the transport of armies and economic trade. They were constructed with stones mixed with cement and sand, cement mixed with broken tiles, and curving stones to drain stormwater. A visitor to ancient Rome generally had trouble navigating the urban parts of Rome. Most of the residential streets were not named, and houses and apartments were not numbered. There were few sidewalks. Streets were narrow and crowded. Walking Rome’s street was frequently dangerous, since it was not unusual to dispose of trash by throwing it out of windows.
  15. 15. Renewable Energy The Romans had water power, and watermills were common throughout the Empire, especially to the end of the first century AD. They were used for corn milling, sawing timber and crushing ore. Room heating was more efficient with charcoal braziers than hypocausts, but hypocausts allowed the use of poor-quality smoky fuels like straw, vine prunings, and small wood locally available.
  16. 16. Roman Homes Roman villa urbana : a country seat that could easily be reached from an urban city in a night or two. Roman villa rustica : the farm- house estate permanently occupied by the servants. Domus : urban house owned by the wealthy. Insulae : three-to-six story apartment buildings occupied by the middle and lower classes. The ground floor of the insulae frequently housed commercial shops.
  17. 17. Types of homes & floor plans Along with a domus in the city, many of the richest families of ancient Rome also owned a separate country house known as a villa. While many chose to live primarily in their villas, these homes were generally much grander in scale and on larger acres of land due to more space outside the walled city. The elite classes of Roman society constructed their residences with elaborate marble decorations, inlaid marble paneling, door jambs and columns as well as expensive paintings and frescoes. Many poor and lower middle class Romans lived in crowded, dirty and mostly rundown rental apartments, known as insulae. These multi-level apartment blocks were built as high and tightly together as possible and held far less status and convenience than the private homes of the prosperous.
  18. 18. The DOMUS In ancient Rome, the domus was the type of house occupied by the upper classes and some wealthy freedmen during the Republican and Imperial eras. They could be found in almost all the major cities throughout the Roman territories. The modern English word domestic comes from Latin domesticus, which is derived from the word domus. The word dom in modern Slavic languages means "home".
  19. 19. Impluvium – here comes the rainThe impluvium is the sunkenpart of the atrium in the domus.Designed to carry away therainwater coming through thecompluvium (opening) of theroof, it was usually made ofmarble and placed about 30 cmbelow the floor of the atrium.It was constructed to allow for acertain amount of standingwater and also water would flowdown under the impluvium andthrough a gravel and sandfilter into a holding chamber(cistern) underground,accessible via a bucket througha small well on the edge of theimpluvium.
  20. 20. Passive CoolingIn hot weather, water could be drawnfrom the cistern chamber (or fetchedby slaves from supplies outside thedomus) and cast into the shallow pool(impluvium) to evaporate and provide acooling effect to the entire atrium. Asthe water evaporated, thesurrounding air was cooled andbecame heavier, flowed into theliving spaces, and was replaced byair drawn through the compluvium.The combination of the compluviumand impluvium formed an ingenious,effective, and attractive manner ofcollecting, filtering, and coolingrainwater and making it available forhousehold use as well as providingcooling of the living spaces.
  21. 21. Building materials & constructionThe elite roman society constructedwith elaborate marble decorations,inlaid marble paneling, door jambsand columns, and expensive paintingsand frescoes.
  22. 22. Radiant Floor Central Heating: HypocaustThe hypocaust (hypocaustum)was the system of centralheating for public bathsand private homes. The floorwas raised above the groundby pillars so that hot air wouldflow from the furnace, throughthe underfloor space, upthrough spaces in the walls,and out through roof openings.The furnace was fueled bywood, which was expensive,and required constantattention, which is why thiswas a feature only of the bathsand villas.
  23. 23. Hypocaust Energy Efficiency In De architectura, Vitruvius gives explicit instructions on how to design buildings which use hypocausts so that fuel efficiency is maximized. For example, at the public baths, placing the hot room next to the heat source, then the warm room, followed by the cold room. He also advises on using a type of regulator to control the heat in the hot rooms.
  24. 24. WHAT DO WE LEARN?As the Roman Empire spread over many regions, Romans were forced to thinkof a dwelling structure which would be suitable for those climatic zones.And moreover, the challenge was designing a structure which would bealso suitable for all seasons. Based on archeological evidence reachingfrom modern-day England to the Balkans, it has been demonstrated that theRoman Villa was built in many different climate zones and some ofthem still stand after 20 centuries.During the Roman Empire thepractices of design andconstruction which can beconsidered sustainable andnoteworthy are:- hydro-power- daylight-based orientation- passive cooling system- advanced heating system- rainwater collection
  25. 25. THE ENDthanks for reading/listening