Alabama’s Climate and the Story of Southern Vernacular Architecture

UAB’s house is designed in the tradition of the Southern Vernacular, which speaks to the relationship between site, climate, and the elements of building that are taken into consideration in the generation of the building form. What does this mean? Before the development of air conditioning, southerners had to build their homes in ways that dealt with hot, humid weather by incorporating the use of cross ventilation and shaded porches and canopies. They also took the home’s site orientation — the position of a building in relation to an east-west axis — into consideration to make optimal use of both sun and shade.

s u r v i v ( A L ) House

Team Alabama’s s u r v i v ( A L ) house incorporates a combination of careful orientation of the building along with a heavily insulated envelope and precise protection of glazing. The home is oriented to maximize solar access and to use roof planes for shading for the majority of the year. The large northern porch is covered with a transparent canopy for inclement weather, allowing light to wrap around corners and penetrate the interior in the early morning and late evening, activating the living spaces with natural light.

  • 01-aerial view of survivAL house
  • 02-dining room and kitchen of survivAL house
  • 03-exterior of survivAL house-illustration
  • 04-exterior of survivAL house and front yard
  • 06-survivAL floorplan
  • 07-bathroom of the survivAL house
  • 08-cross section of the exterior of the survivAL house

    Technology that Fights Humidity

    Team Alabama Decathletes have devised a remarkable system for beating the Alabama heat and reducing energy costs — the UAB-developed device uses a liquid desiccant system in combination with a solar collector to take water out of the air. This system dehumidifies the air inside the home at night, and recharges the material during the day, reducing the overall load on the home’s air conditioning system.

    Resilience in Extreme Weather

    Alabama has been struck by more tornadoes than any other state in the nation since 1966 — eight of those tornadoes were classified as EF5, meaning that the twisters tore through our state at more than 200 miles per hour. To protect its inhabitants, s u r v i v ( A L ) will incorporate a safe room with tornado panels designed by engineers at UAB’s Materials Processing and Applications Development (MPAD) Center. The safe room is designed in accordance with FEMA standards to withstand 250 mile-per-hour winds, and will be built to remain intact even if the house is destroyed during a strong storm, keeping its occupants from harm.

    Quick Permanence

    When storms ravage an area, thousands of families are forced to take shelter in temporary housing. Team Alabama’s home is designed for “quick permanence,” meaning that in the event of loss or damage in extreme weather, our house is prototyped so that any contractor can rebuild quickly and easily.