Which country has space for sustainable architecture?

Green remodeling in Korea
An architecture of the future

There are many old buildings in Korea that consume a lot of energy. "Green Remodeling" is used to convert old, dilapidated buildings - for greater energy efficiency and better living quality. What does such an architecture of the future look like?

By Geun-young Lee

Around 70% of the total of 7.2 million buildings in Korea are old buildings that were built over 15 years ago - and the number is growing all the time. The old buildings with their high energy consumption are also a reason that greenhouse gas emissions in Korea continue to rise.

As part of the new agreement of the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Green Remodeling is intended to help increase the energy efficiency of existing, older buildings and improve the quality of living. Compared to a new building, the construction time is significantly shorter and also has economic advantages. Green remodeling is an environmentally friendly construction method that takes nature into account. It also increases the value of the building, improves the quality of life and reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Friendly Duck House - the future of Korean country houses

Photo: © Geun-young Lee The converted Korean country house is located in the South Korean community of Yangsa, which is located in the northern part of Kanghwa County. Yangsa is just a few kilometers from Gaepung County in North Korea. Kanghwa Bay lies between them. When the weather is clear, you can even see the North Korean industrial region of Kaesong over the barbed wire fence. Byung Un Jung, the managing director of E-ECO Construction, a construction company that is committed to sustainability, had a very special house built for his mother, who comes from North Korea: a house with a roof, from which she longingly in can see their home. He called it the Friendly Duck House.

The beauty of the Hanok

Photo: © Geun-young Lee The old house had been uninhabited for a long time and looked more like a shack - until it was redesigned 55 years later. Fascinated by the sturdy ridge beams and the curved rafters, Byung Un Jung thought about how the renovation could be designed in such a way that, on the one hand, the beauty of the Hanok was preserved and, on the other hand, the energy loss would be minimized. The new Friendly Duck House received first prize in the residential building category at the fifth “Green Remodeling Best Practices Contest” - organized by the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH). The architecture and cultural event serves to present particularly successful renovation projects to the general public.
Sorghum props found in the loess walls of the old house. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee The traditional structure of the old house remained unchanged. Only some of the pillars, which were in poor condition, were torn down or repaired. The beauty of the Korean country house - called Hanok - could also be retained: Both the rafters and the ridge beams were faithfully taken over and the ceiling was coated with kaolin to emphasize the beautiful wood color. In addition, some supports that had been found in the loess walls of the old house were left standing. These supports are made from a mixture of sorghum and wood and at the time acted as insulation to reduce energy loss. In this way, the architects were able to stick to the old construction despite the renovation and to preserve the original atmosphere of the house.
Photo: © Geun-young Lee The once dilapidated house has now become a living space for elderly people who no longer have to worry about the strong drafts in the country and the associated high operating costs. A window was let into the lower part of the wall, on the one hand to improve the daylight supply and on the other hand to be able to enjoy the view to the outside. | Photo: © Geun-young LeeByung Un Jung wanted a house that was neither too hot nor too cold - and that above all offered protection from fine dust. The outside of the building was covered with urethane sheets in order to keep the internal temperature constant and largely to prevent heat loss. In addition, airtight adhesive tapes, panels and swelling tapes were used in the high-performance windows to ensure increased airtightness. The ventilation system with heat recovery ensures an even circulation of the indoor air, so that unnecessary heating and cooling is avoided and a pleasant room climate is created at the same time. External sun protection was installed on the south side of the building in order to block out the strong sunlight in summer. This also reduces the electricity costs for the air conditioning system.
Photo: © Geun-young Lee By actively using renewable energies, energy efficiency could also be maximized. The solar collectors (3 kW) installed on the roof provide electrical energy as well as thermal energy for heat generation. Using the Green Remodeling method, the Friendly Duck House's heating and cooling load has decreased by 86.4%. The total annual energy costs were reduced from approx. 6.6 million won (almost 5,000 euros) to approx. 190,000 won (approx. 150 euros).
The shelf from the small pantry, on which the grain used to be stored, now serves as a shelf for audio equipment. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee Byung Un Jung started building passive houses in Korea ten years ago. He is of the opinion that one must create a deeper environmental awareness among future generations - both in the work context and in everyday life - and hopes that his lovingly converted Friendly Duck House will lead the way as an exemplary model for Korean country houses.

The library of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies - a sustainable expansion

Photo: © Geun-young Lee The university library, completed in 1973, had an outdated facility and facade, the inadequate thermal insulation caused energy losses during heating and cooling. In addition, due to the increasing number of books every year, there was hardly any storage space. Quiet places for students were also becoming increasingly scarce. The dead weight of the building increased to such an extent that even the structural stability was endangered.
The final design concept for the library was worked out jointly after intensive discussions with the university and POSCO A&C. In the picture, Hyung-Taek Myung (left), head of the Academic Research Information Team / HUFS, and Hyung-Joo Seo (right), head of the design department / POSCO A&C, are talking. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee The new library was designed and converted on behalf of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies by Posco A&C, an architecture firm that specializes in green remodeling for its building projects. The university wanted a unique, sustainable library that would evolve in line with the times. The innovative project also won first prize in the fifth “Green Remodelling Best Practices Contest” in the utility building category.
Photo: © Geun-young Lee The university library has now become an open, smart library. The traditional image of a more quiet and sober environment has changed to an open space that takes into account that students nowadays are used to studying in public places such as cafés.
Photo: © Geun-young Lee The reading rooms have the best view of the campus. Students sit there and study. You can look into and out of the library from outside - this ensures constant visual contact. The open ceiling gives a feeling of openness, the tables are relatively far apart. Students can learn in daylight. There are sofas next to the tables for a short break.
Photo: © Geun-young Lee As is customary at universities with a focus on the humanities, the library has countless old books and writings. Therefore, a mobile shelving system was set up in the basement of the library, which holds around 700,000 books. The former book rooms have been converted into places to stay. They have become communicative areas in which reading, individual learning, group work and relaxation are possible.

The library foyer is a public space that is accessible to everyone, including residents who live near the HUFS. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee The entrance hall on the ground floor, which defines the appearance of the library, is literally an open space. Library visitors can use it as they wish. In the foyer, where the front door has been moved to the back, you can read books or chat.

Not just a place of study: Here you can also play, sleep, study and relax. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee The main concern of the library as a utility building was to reduce the consumption of cooling energy. For this reason, only a few windows were installed in the southern part to protect against the summer heat. The building was oriented to the north in order to reduce the energy load as much as possible. At the same time, the glass curtain wall enhances the feeling of openness. Highly efficient windows with thermally insulating triple glazing improve the insulation performance and airtightness.

The multi-purpose conference room can be used flexibly. | Photo: © Geun-young Lee Not only paints and building materials are environmentally friendly. Equally great value was placed on the interior fittings. The architects decided on eco-friendly furniture - with a focus on the health of the students. Decentralized living space ventilation using a ventilation system with a heat exchanger increases the air quality and saves twice as much energy compared to conventional ventilation. With the new photovoltaic system (126 kW), more than 142% of the total energy can be obtained for lighting. After the renovation, the library of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies reduced its energy consumption by 53.4%, thus achieving energy efficiency class 1+ according to Korean standards and being certified with the “G-Seed, Grade 4”.

Seoul Energy Dream Center - experience architecture and energy up close

Photo: © Geun-young Lee Nanjido, once an island of flowers full of orchids and thyme, was turned into a garbage dump in Seoul in 1978. In 2002, the city of Seoul converted the huge garbage dump into an environmentally friendly local recreation area. In 2012, the Seoul Energy Dream Center opened there - the first energy-autonomous, environmentally friendly public building in Korea.

The Seoul Energy Dream Center is the city's new renewable energy landmark. It uses solar energy as well as geothermal heating and cooling systems. The building envelope was designed in such a way that energy can be saved. The building services systems have also been improved. Thanks to these bundled measures, the annual energy consumption of the building could be reduced by 30% compared to the average consumption in Korea.

If you take a walk around the building, architectural design elements become visible, which ensure that excessive energy consumption is reduced and energy efficiency is increased.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    Like the eaves of the Hanok, the outer wall, which slopes inwards at a 66 ° angle, regulates the incidence of solar radiation depending on the season.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The solar system at the Seoul Energy Dream Center generates around 367,000 kWh of electrical energy per year.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The ventilation system in the Seoul Energy Dream Center works with waste heat recovery. In winter the energy efficiency is ≥ 80% and in summer even ≥ 90%. The heat and exhaust air from the interior are recovered and discharged to the outside in order to create a pleasant room climate.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The exhibitions on the ground floor are dedicated to the topic of "Renewable Energies". Here you can learn interesting facts about solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, hydropower, bioenergy and hydrogen fuel cells. In addition, the zero energy applied to the Seoul Energy Dream Center and its effects will be explained in more detail and made tangible.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The Seoul Climate Change Learning Center is located on the first floor. Here visitors learn something about climate change in the present and the future.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The second floor consists of the Community Hall, which is a multi-purpose room for seminars and various events; an experimental study area, a baby changing room and several relaxation areas. Here visitors can also see energy-saving technologies such as natural light, external and electrically operated sun visors, sloping walls, etc.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    The hybrid ESS (energy storage system) is a power supply system that stores generated electricity and makes it available again when required. It is also the first system to consist of recycled old batteries from electric vehicles and new batteries. The electricity generated by the solar system is stored and fed into the building. This causes less environmental pollution than the disposal of lithium-ion batteries.
  • Photo: © Geun-young Lee
    Geothermal heating and cooling system: The geothermal probe system is based on the principle of constant geothermal heat and is used for both cooling and heating. Compared to other cooling and heating systems, it saves 20-25% electricity.
The downward sloping outer wall takes into account the position of the sun depending on the season. Like the eaves of the Hanok, it shields the strong rays of the sun in summer. In winter, enough sunlight gets into the interior of the building, so that energy is saved when heating. The white wedge-shaped roofs, which are attached to the facade like wings, reflect the sunlight into the interior and ensure an adequate supply of daylight. The external, electrically operated sun visor is adapted to the weather conditions such as temperature, solar radiation and wind speed and automatically controlled. In this way, energy efficiency can be increased. In addition, the energy consumption for lighting is considerably reduced by regulating the incidence of light in the interior spaces separately.

In the Seoul Energy Dream Center, a zero-energy building that generates as much energy as it consumes, visitors can experience the complex relationships between energy, architecture and climate change with all their senses.

In addition, there is a wide range of events related to climate change and energy such as the Eco-Tour, zero-energy building programs for young people, puppet shows, guided tours through various exhibitions, etc.

Source: Seoul Energy Dream Center