NEW REGULATIONS OF THE TECHNICAL BUILDING CODE (TBC) TO PREVENT THE CONCENTRATION OF RADON GAS IN BUILDINGS
With the aim of maintaining the safety of the citizens, a new mandatory protection measure has been included in the Technical Building Code (TBC), by means of which the community is protected from exposure to radon gas inside living premises.
What is radon gas.
Radon gas is a natural gas that has no smell, colour or taste and tends to concentrate in the interior of buildings. It seeps into houses through cracks in the floor or at the junction of the floor and walls, spaces around pipes or cables, small pores in walls made of concrete blocks, holes, drains, etc.
It has been demonstrated that prolonged exposure to radon gas is the second cause of lung cancer, after tobacco. Therefore, many countries, just like Spain, have now included in their Technical Building Codes the obligation to establish health protection measures for people, including radon gas exposure studies and preventive measures in construction.
Therefore, from 2020, the TBC has established for all new constructions, extensions, changes of use and renovations the obligation to limit the concentration of radon gas in interior spaces that are habitable in those buildings located in areas with a foreseeable risk of exposure.
Municipalities with where radon gas is found.
The Ministry of Development has catalogued the municipalities where radon gas may be present in two zones. Zone I is of low activity and zone II is where the presence of radon gas is stronger and more specific prevention measures must be taken.
On this map, we can see which points of the Spanish territory are most exposed to radon gas.
The reference level for radon gas coming from the ground that can’t be exceeded inside the buildings will be 300 Bqm-3, this figure being the average annual radon gas concentration.
In the Balearic Islands, which is the place where Icazar is most active, there is no municipality within zone II, which is defined as having the highest risk of exposure, with the strictest prevention measures to be applied.
The following municipalities in the Balearic Islands are affected by radon gas:
Balearic Islands / Illes Balears
In the municipalities of the zone I, which is highly present in the Balearic Islands, there will be a protective barrier installed to limit the current of gases from the ground.
The protective barrier may be an anti-radon lath or some other type of barrier that proves to be effective.
Lath-type barriers with a diffusion coefficient against radon gas of less than 10-11 m2/s and a minimum thickness of 2mm will be valid.
The protection barrier will also have the following characteristics:
Should you need more information about the measures to be applied, please find the regulations established by the Technical Building Code at the following link: https://www.fomento.gob.es/recursos_mfom/proyecto_rd_anejo_iidbhs6.pdf.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at
Thermal bridges and energy efficiency.
What is a thermal bridge?
Thermal bridges account for between 5% and 10% of a building’s heat loss.
At Icazar Architects, we are aware that in order to significantly reduce the number of thermal bridges in buildings, a good design and planning is necessary, paying special attention to the architectural details and their execution during the construction work.
A thermal bridge is a point or a line in the building shell where cold or heat flows more easily than in the surrounding area due to an irregularity in the thermal resistance. It is a place where the insulating surface is broken due to a change in the geometry of the shell or to a change of materials or thermal resistance.
That is why any architectural solution takes into account a possible thermal insulation irregularity so as to prevent the temperature inside the building to be affected by the building shell materials.
An example is windows where an aluminium frame is used. Insulating glass has lower conductivity than the aluminium frame, which is why the heat can be lost through the frame. In winter, it is common to see small drops of water condensation on the frame, while no such condensation occurs on the glass. By breaking the thermal bridge, we manage to avoid this heat loss, which consists in preventing the inner and outer sides of the frame from the contact with each other, including double-glazed windows with a non-conductive material between both sides of the frame, thus avoiding thermal flow between the outer and inner environment.
By breaking the thermal bridge, we will achieve:
– To save energy and, as a consequence, economic savings and also a reduction in the CO2 emissions.
– The interior space of the house will have a higher temperature than the exterior, thus avoiding water condensation on the frames or glass. The possibility of having two-colour frames, different inside or outside the building.
– Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol and also with the Technical Building Code, which requires the aluminium frames to be thermally insulated.
The places where we find thermal bridges are:
– Windows: for years now, windows have been thermally insulated, as a non-conductive material is used between the inside and outside of the window. But if the same windows have been used for a long time, it is likely that they aren’t thermally insulated and the heat is lost. In addition, if the window is not double-glazed, a thermal bridge is created that will affect the temperature inside the house and produce higher energy consumption.
– Pillars: in old buildings, it is common to find pillars embedded in a wall in contact with the outside, cutting the insulation of the facade if there is any.
– Frameworks: in the same way as with the pillars, it is common to find frameworks with edges located almost on the outside of the facade, cutting the insulation.
How can thermal bridges be detected?
There are three methods for locating thermal bridges: visual examination, by means of thermography or with numerical calculations.
This method is not very reliable, but in many cases it is sufficient. Especially, in the case of windows, where simply by placing a hand on the windows or by observing the presence of condensation, a thermal bridge is detected.
This system allows locating the most sensitive points of a building’s shell without having to perform special tests on the construction quality.
The examination is carried out with thermographic cameras that will provide a series of images that will clearly show where the building loses heat.
This system is also perfect for energy reconstruction or rehabilitation, since by making a thermographic examination before and after the work, the energy savings can be easily measured.
If the purpose is to have a building with almost no consumption or a passive one, rather than a thermography, certain calculation programs must be applied that will give much more reliable results.
Thanks to programs, such as LIDER, CYPECAD MEP or ECODESIGNER STAR, together with the BIM technology, it is possible to calculate the overall thermal behaviour of the building shell.
The best way to avoid thermal bridges is to know how the construction of each element of the building should be carried out. For this reason, the Technical Building Code provides a series of construction details that give an exact instruction on how to proceed in each case.
As we get closer to the end of 2019, we see that the year has not passed unnoticed in terms of architecture. So let’s take a look at some works that are under way or already complete, in the shape of seven impressive buildings around the world.
1. National Museum of Qatar, by Jean Nouvel:
The National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), a work of French architect Jean Nouvel, is an impressive building consisting of hundreds of horizontal and vertical disc structures. Inspired by the desert rose, it creates large areas of shade. During the building’s inauguration on 27 March, the architect said he had designed it to tell the story of Qatar and its great ambitions for the future.
2. “Thousand Trees” residential building, by Heatherwich Studio, Shanghai:
Following on from the “vertical forest” concept of the Bosco Verticale towers in Milan, the Heatherwich Studio has created the “Thousand Trees” residential building. The 300,000 m2project has been conceived as a hill covered with vegetation, rather than just a simple skyscraper. The structure is a mixed-use complex consisting of apartments, offices, shops, a school and a hotel. The outstanding feature of this project is its structural concrete columns, which protrude from the buildings like giant flower pots containing trees.
3. Ruby City for Linda Pace, by David Adjaye:
Ruby City, an arts centre designed by David Adjaye, will finally be opening its doors to the public in October. It is located in San Antonio, Texas. After twelve years on the drawing board, Adjaye Associates, working in collaboration with Alamo Architects, has completed this project designed to house the growing collection of the Linda Pace Foundation. Covering 14,000 square feet of floorspace, the arts centre aims to supply collaborative exhibition space for both the city’s creative community and local and international artists. The space includes a museum and a landscaped sculpture garden with a work by Nancy Rubins.
4. The Shed, by Diller Scofidio + Renfino, in New York:
After more than ten years’ production work, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwelll have inaugurated The Shed in New York City. The building is equipped with a 120-metre telescopic frame, which can be extended from the main structure to host major events. The project is connected to the High Line on 30th Street to hold performances and art shows for the city’s newest neighbourhood. The Shed houses various galleries, along with the Griffin Theater and MacCourt, a performance space. The upper floor is home to a rehearsal area, a laboratory space for local artists and event facilities.
5. Al Wakrah Stadium, by Zaha Hadid, Qatar:
Architect Zaha Hadid presented this project in 2013. The shape of the stadium is inspired in the traditional fishing dhows of the port of Al Wakrah. The stadium’s façade is made of a bright white material reminiscent of seashells. Its main features include a fully retractable roof and air conditioning. With a capacity of 40,000 seats, it is to be one of eight venues designed to host the 32 teams playing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
6. Under, the restaurant beneath the sea, by Snøhetta, Norway:
Inaugurated on 20 March of this year in Båly, a village in Norway, Under is a highly innovative project. A creation of Snøhetta Architects, the Under complex includes both a restaurant and a research centre for marine life. Thirty-four metres of the semi-submerged building are in contact with the surface of the water, with a further five metres under the sea.
It is designed to blend into the marine environment over time, as the concrete structure becomes an artificial reef.
The underwater restaurant’s huge eleven-metre window offers spectacular views of the seabed as it changes throughout the year.
Measuring instruments have also been installed on the façade of the building for the use of various teams of marine biologists.
7. Vessel Tower, by Thomas Heatherwick, New York:
Partly opened in March of this year, the so-called “Eiffel Tower of New York City”, a project by Thomas Heatherwick, a British architect, is a large staircase-like structure costing around €134 million. It is intended to stand 16 storeys high in the heart of Manhattan.
The combined sculpture/building Vessel Tower is part of the new 4.8-hectare Hudson Yards urban complex, which includes a seven-storey shopping centre housing various well-known brands, a Spanish food centre known as Mercado Little Spain and various other features.
The shopping mall provides a base for six skyscrapers containing luxury residences and office space.
Items like The Shed (a centre for avant-garde art) and “The Vessel” sculpture itself add the finishing touches to this immense project.
Tadao Ando is the world’s best-known Japanese contemporary architect. He has received many prestigious international awards, including the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 1995, and a “Laurea honoris causa” in 2002 from the School of Architecture at Rome’s La Sapienza University. Ando has developed a unique, unmistakable style, blending old Japanese tradition and contemporary architecture in a harmonious manner. His career is all the more impressive when one considers that he’s largely self-taught. Born in 1941 in Osaka, Ando worked as a professional boxer and truck driver before apprenticing as a carpenter and turning to design. After continually att empting to have his carpentry clients accept his designs, only to be turned down, he decided to teach himself architecture by devouring the reading list of university architecture students. What was meant to be read over the course of four years took him only one. Additionally, he took distance education courses in drawing to prepare himself for his profession.
At the age of 18 he visited temples, shrines, and tea houses in Kyoto and Nara, observing the traditional architecture in the area. However, in the 1960s he travel to Europe and the
United States to analyse great buildings and document his observations in a detail sketch book. Visiting buildings designed by renowned architects like Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Kahn.He returned to Osaka in 1968 to establish his own design studio. Since setting up his own practice, the famously self-taught architect has completed over 200 buildings, with notable examples including the Rokko housing developments in Kobe (1983-99), the Church of the Light in Osaka (1989), the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis (2001) and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2002). In recognition of his consistent ability to create functional yet exquisitely crafted and emotionally engaging buildings
So what defines Tadao Ando’s architecture?
His stubbornness and tenacity have stayed with him throughout the years, allowing him to pursue the singular vision that defines his architecture. Inspired by architects like Le Corbusier and having immersed himself in great classical architecture, he’s continually striving to create and transcend what has come before.
One of Tadao Ando’s defining characteristics is his use of concrete. What distinguishes his use of this common material is the smooth, almost reflective finish he’s able to achieve. Combined with bare, minimalist walls, this allows him to bring focus to the form of the building, as this is what he believes brings emotional impact to architecture. Ando achieves his characteristic concrete finish by varnishing the forms before pouring begins. His iconic Church of Light, built in 1989 and located just outside Osaka, is a prime example of the power of simplicity. Composed of a cement box perforated by light coming through a cruciform slit, it’s a work that Ando once said embodied the key principles of his architecture practice.
This guiding philosophy is ever present in Ando’s work. His 1976 Row House in Sumiyoshi, or Azuma House, is an early work that shows the impact of his mastery of shapes. The small personal home consists of two concrete rectangular volumes without exterior windows that give way to a rectangular outer courtyard to provide an oasis from city life.
For Ando, architecture is at its best when it allows people to experience the beauty of nature. The continuity of indoor and outdoor space is a principle typical of Japanese culture and Ando takes this philosophy to new heights by incorporating modern touches. His work at the Makomanai Takino Cemetery in Sapporo, where he framed a 44-foot-tall Buddha in a lavender hill, highlights how he uses nature to guide people’s experience with the space.
Water is a recurring theme in Ando’s work. In Fort Worth, the museum is surrounded by an expanse of water that reflects a second vision of that architecture that is, for Ando, just as much a part of the work as the physical building. By using water and light, he is also able to introduce movement to his work, as well as an ephemeral quality achieved by how the water changes throughout the course of the day.
In keeping with Ando’s minimalist aesthetic, his use of light allows him to subtly guide the mood of each building. Whether it’s the powerful burst that breaks through the cement of the Church of Light or the play of light and shadow in Tokyo’s 21_21 Design Sight, his strategic use of natural light is a hallmark of his style. With sparse interior decoration, people are left to ponder the space and the passage of time via the changing light dynamics within his architecture.
Ando’s desire to help people reflect on their inner selves rather than focus on the outward visual is just one way the Japanese Zen philosophy manifests itself in his work. The architect acts as a guide, creating strategic pathways through his architecture that allows visitors to meditate on the shapes and forms without distraction. His meticulous use of space and his emphasis on the physical experience of architecture is a large part of what has made him one of the greatest architects of our time.
Concrete is a building material made of a mixture of water, sand, pebbles and cement, often defined as artificial stone.
A word considered to be of French origin, concrete is associated with engineering achievements – bridges, power plants, foundries.
Concrete as a material has been unchanged as a material since the 19th century, and the composition of concrete has undergone a few tweaks here and there, but its cold, hard, and gray aesthetic, until now. Translucent concrete is here to change the look of architecture.
Translucent concrete was first mentioned in a 1935 Canadian patent by Bernard Long , who worked for glass manufacturer Saint-Gobain. In the ’90s, architect and inventor Bill Price explored the concept and even went as far as conducting strength tests on a few samples while working at Rem Koolhaas’s OMA . Yet it wasn’t until the early aughts, when Hungarian architect Áron Losonczi patented his light transmitting concrete LitraCon , that translucent concrete became commercially viable.
Light transmitting concrete is a mixture of optical glass fibres and fine concrete. It can be used as prefabricated blocks or panels. Thousands of optical glass fibres form a matrix and run parallel to each other between the two main surfaces of every block.
The proportion of the optical fibres it’s just a 4% of the total volume. Because of their size, they become a structural component in the concrete. The surface of the blocks therefore remains similar to homogeneous concrete.
The glass fibres lead light through the two sides of the concrete. Because of their parallel position the lighting on the brighter side of such a wall appears unchanged on the darker side. Shadows are displayed on the opposing side of the wall and the colour of the light remains the same.
In theory, a wall structure built out of Litracon can be a couple of metres thick. The fibres work with minimal loss of light up to 20m.
Load-bearing structures can also be built using these blocks, as glass fibres do not have a significant negative effect on the high compressive strength of concrete. The blocks can be produced in various sizes and also include embedded heat-isolation.
Translucent concrete is nowadays available in several varieties, but never before it was possible to make it insulating, until now. Zospeum is the first translucent concrete that provides both support and insulation, ready to revolutionise the way we see modern architecture.
Zospeum is a cutting-edge building material that uses up to 30.000 optical fibres per square meter of concrete. It allows light to permeate into living spaces in order for those on the inside to interact better with the outside world. It insulates while remaining strong, applicable for a multitude of architectural applications.
Allowing daylight to permeate helps with energy efficiency by providing natural illumination without ancillary heat. It reduces the need for additional lighting while saving on artificial ventilation.
Conceived by a team of leading designers in the Netherlands and spearheaded by architect Peter van Delft Westerhof, the foundation was set for a new concept that used insulation material alongside optical fibres. The core concept was built upon by Dutch construction agency Hurks , realising the original team’s ideas, bringing the translucent concrete to life.
As the most used building material, concrete is also the most intensively researched. Its potentials as a building material are still being discovered, allowing for new possibilities even after millennia of intermittent use. These most recent developments might seem like something from a science-fiction future, but they have all already been used in small construction projects and prototypes. Soon these emerging materials may be used to shape streets, buildings, and cities around the world.
When designing a house, much attention is given to the interior layout, the dimensions of spaces and the distribution of furniture, without realising the highly important difference that lighting makes to the project.
Lighting has the capacity to transform a location into a completely different place.
Lighting literally allows us to highlight certain corners of the house and transform spaces with the power of illumination in order to enhance the expressiveness of their design.
ICAZAR ARCHITECTS pays special attention to avoiding an excess of shadows by always seeking to find the right balance between the focused lighting of specific points and the generic illumination of the space as a whole. This includes finding the right equilibrium between natural sunlight and shade, as shade is often a factor that triggers curiosity and interest.
ICAZAR ARCHITECTS takes the following factors into account when planning the lighting of a residential property:
Natural light depends on the orientation of the property relative to the plot of land on which it stands, along with its window and door openings.
The path of the sun over the house must always be taken into account when designing the property and deciding on its location, orientation and space distribution.
General lighting is what gives the property a uniform sense of being illuminated. This will often involve the use of spotlights, wall lamps or ceiling lamps. The main overall contribution is made by lamps embedded in the ceilings of the property.
Focused lighting allows us to illuminate a specific feature of the property, such as a bedside table, a reading desk, a dressing table or a dining area.
It complements the general lighting described above by helping to cover specific needs. ICAZAR ARCHITECTS always makes great effort to find out about the lifestyle of the people who are going to occupy the property, so that the chosen system of lighting is practical and designed to their full satisfaction.
The fourth item on the list is decorative lighting. This is used, as its name suggests, to highlight the decorative features of the property. ICAZAR ARCHITECTS designs this type of lighting with the architectural details of the property in mind.
This entails planning ahead wherever possible to create the right ambience for each space, by projecting the type of light required in each case to fullfill our intentions and needs.
The Majorca Association of Surveyors and Building Engineers (COAAT) has been publishing its Book of Construction Prices since 1982. The book, which is now in its 41st edition, is widely used by professionals in the sector. It has been translated into Catalan, English and German to make it even more accessible to construction professionals working on the island of Majorca.
ICAZAR ARCHITECTS has contributed to the creation of the book by supplying its expertise.
As our colleague David Moret Oliver puts it:
“The international reality of Majorca is an obvious fact, and has been for many years now.”
Martin Lange has meanwhile collaborated in the German translation of all the technical terms that appear in the price catalogue. In this way, as he says, projects can be translated into German to give the client a better understanding, in his or her own mother tongue, of all the design concepts being presented.
ICAZAR ARCHITECTS is proud, as an international firm of architects, to have contributed to the publication of this book, as it facilitates communication between the multicultural teams responsible for international projects.