Zero Carbon is a policy that aims to restore ecological balance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous studies have shown that the construction industry is responsible for today’s unbalance. It consumes vast amounts of natural resources and builds buildings that are not conducive to the preservation of the environment. It is essential to search for ways to achieve a carbon neutral architecture. One way is to learn from the past masters like Joao Filgueiras Peru Lima (also known as Lele).

Lele considered the human aspect of the building’s constructions, as well as the end users. It has been a reference point in passive strategies for building comfort. This includes not spending any mechanical or electrical energy. We will therefore analyze the professional practice of an architect and break it down into three key points that can help us think more sustainably about architecture.

Memorial Darcy Ribeiro - Beijódromo / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Joana França

Reduced waste and better use of materials

Concrete and steel are two of the most commonly used building materials. Concrete and steel are durable and resistant, but they also require high energy consumption and emit pollutant during production, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Lele adopted them to create more efficient processes by using industrialized techniques as well as the construction system. It created an integrated project that used prefabrication to reduce waste and increase productivity.

Memorial Darcy Ribeiro - Beijódromo / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Joana França

The project was successful because of its defining role. As the coordinator for the project, the architect was responsible for ensuring that all material problems were solved. This left less room for errors and waste on the construction site. Prefabricated parts were designed to be easy to transport, so they can be easily handled by humans. Construction is more efficient and uses less fuel.

Lele’s design vision is another important factor. He didn’t see the project as finished, but rather the future of the building. He envisioned solutions that would allow the building to evolve according to technological advances or new requirements. This ensures that the building does not become obsolete, and can be transformed or maintained more easily than it was when it was originally built. Building versatility is achieved, which saves money and reduces the need for demolition.

Hospital Sarah Kubitschek Salvador / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Nelson Kon

Let the Wind in

The wind is a crucial part of cooling buildings in tropical and hot climates. Air conditioning becomes unnecessary. Lele came up with different methods to allow cross ventilation. As you will see, the roof was not the only thing that needed to be protected. There were also concerns about wind blowing through frames or permanent openings that let air in when it is necessary.

Hospital Sarah Kubitschek Salvador / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Nelson Kon

This solution is more efficient because it is particularly sensitive to the facades. Lele uses a variety of responses to create a buffer zone in many projects. These include balconies with large eaves, vegetation, and water features. The internal gardens and the balconies make it cooler for the air to pass through, which helps maintain a pleasant temperature and humidity.

The ventilation system designed for Sarah Salvador hospital in 1994 is one of Lele’s most well-known projects. Lele created an underground gallery in which air is supplied by metallic ducts. These ducts are placed between reinforced mortar partitions. The air then travels to the wards via ventilated shutters. Finally, the air is extracted through sheds that face the opposite direction to the prevailing winds. This creates pressure and helps with the air extraction effect.

Desenho do sistema de ventilação do hospital Sarah Salvador, de 1994, via Betoneira

Roofs as a Thermal Balance Tool

Lele’s solutions for facades ensure that there is no significant thermal gain. To enhance thermal comfort, the roofs must be considered. Lele developed this aspect over the course of his career, raising the buildings’ heights, creating air mattresses for thermal protection, and choosing light colors to reflect heat and increase reflection.

Laboratório de Termobiologia da UnB / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Joana França

It is important to mention the distinctive use sheds have made, particularly in Sarah network’s instance. Some projects include transparent materials such as polycarbonate and moving parts. These allow for natural ventilation and lighting, which enhances the space’s quality.

Centro de Reabilitação Sarah Kubitschek Lago Norte, Brasília / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto:  © Nelson Kon

An exhibition at Escola de Cidade will honor the architect. Valdemir Rosa (one of the curators) reminds us that the exhibition was meant to showcase an architect who, in 20th century thinking, was already thinking about 21st century. This statement sums up the importance of his work and allows us to see the future where civil construction can make a difference in the climate. May Lele continue to inspire the future.

Memorial Darcy Ribeiro - Beijódromo / João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé). Foto: © Joana França