By Rachel Ford
July 28, 2010 (San Diego) -- Green architecture is hot right now. For San Diego architect Simi Razavian, who developed techniques in her Middle Eastern homeland, it's also a way of life.
Designing homes that utilize energy saving construction and passive solar design is a simple solution to save energy and money, while making homes more comfortable year-round. The concept is ideal for East County’s sunny climate. But according to Razavian, many local architects don't understand these concepts or how to incorporate them seamlessly with design.
Razavian was born in Iran in 1955 and obtained her Masters in architecture from the Melli University of Iran. While doing research on her thesis in Iran right after the 1972 oil crisis, she began thinking of energy-saving construction and passive design. She focused her studies on the city of Tabas, Iran, a city in the harsh desert climate that still managed to build comfortable homes.
At first, Razavian says she wasn't even thinking about energy saving, but focusing on how to build a comfortable house. Personally she doesn't like to use air conditioning if she doesn't have to, and it was that philosophy that she brought to her projects.
She put her work into practice when she built her aunt's home in Iran in 1979. She then moved to San Diego, where she started working with other architects and perfecting solar techniques. She now has her own architecture firm and takes on projects all over the county.
In 2007, she was published in Decor and Style Magazine. The article profiled a home she designed with windows facing south and north, not only utilizing the view, but providing cooling cross ventilation against the San Diego heat.
"I am unique in that I come from a background where I have seen buildings that have been built based on passive solar techniques,” she said. “I have seen that they work, so I am not afraid of using those techniques."
In her own home, walls of glass slide open to create open-air rooms, a technique commonly found in the tropics.
Another technique Razavian utilizes is the evaporated cooling system. A water feature is installed inside the house for evaporation, similar to that of a cooler. Also, in houses that she cannot eliminate all east and west windows, she makes them narrow and tall to prevent the sun from penetrating inside the house, while still making sure there is plenty of daylight.
"These techniques work great in a dry climate like San Diego. Save 50-70% of energy usage in buildings," explained Razavian, who lectured at UCSD in July.
Tom Vajda had his home in Rancho Santa Fe completely renovated by Razavian in 2001. After renovations, his house is now comfortable and homey.
"I rarely use an air conditioner or heater, just open windows to enjoy the breeze and natural air," she said.