Lu Liu

Advised by:
Nina Baird 
Zekun Li (Suzy) 
Sarah Rafson

Studio Coordinated By Heather Bizon and Sarah Rafson

Themes: Indoor environment for aging


Aging is one of the world's challenges. Asia’s aging is more serious than in Europe and North America, and China's aging population is developing at the fastest pace. Obviously, China is less experienced than countries that have entered the “Aged” and “Super Aged”. The country has focused on the labor market system, the retirement system, and the old-age insurance system, thus ignoring the housing quality of the elderly. Consequently, my thesis is going to focus on the seniors HEATHLY problem affected by the indoor environment which includes ENVELOPE and daylighting.

The project is located in Baiwanzhuang neighborhoods, Xincheng District, Beijing China. This renovation not only preserves the historical and cultural heritage but also improves the housing quality of the urban eldely, saves COSTS for families, and reduces the economic and life pressure of the only child.

Data source : Jingyu Yu, M. D. T. H. (n.d.). A pilot study monitoring the thermal comfort of the elderly living in nursing homes in Hefei, China, using wireless sensor networks, site measurements and a survey -                               Jingyu Yu, MD Tanbir Hassan, Yongzhen Bai, Ning An, Vivian W. Y. Tam, 2020. SAGE Journals.

                          China country assessment report on ageing and health
, 2016.

                         ZHU Xiao, FAN Wen-ting. Income Poverty of Chinese Elderly and Influencing Factors——Based on 2014 CLASS[J]. BeiJing Shehuikexue 2017, (1): 90-99. DOI:10.13262/j.bjsshkxy.bjshkx.170110.

Elderly Status Quo

  • The Importance of Cost to the Elderly
The physical fitness of the elderly gradually declines with age. The elderly are more afraid of the cold. On account ofcultural habits the Chinese elderly are very frugal, they save on living costs in many ways. Cutting down energy is one of them. Such as saving water usage and energy, therefore, they do not use air conditioners in summer despite the degree of thermal uncomfortableness, and the lights were turned on later in the day.

  • Good Envelope can keep the Elderly Healthy
These cultural habits can lead to bad health impacts, but can be improved by a better envelope. Seniors with good health also reduce the pressure on only children to take care of them.
It was found that low temperature increased the heart rate and blood pressure of the elderly, which is undoubtedly the most important thermal comfort for seniors who stay indoors for a long time.

  • Good Daylighting can keep the Elderly Healthy
Good Windows not only provides thermal insulation and thermal comfort but also the natural landscape can ease people’s tension and pressure, reduce the negative emotions, restore natural light body contact less senior sleep quality is low, most sedentary, negative behavior more easily the elderly often suffer from various diseases of old age. Especially for the eldAerly with mobility problems, natural light is the most convenient way to access nature.

︎Why Renovation?

  • Historical Value
Baiwanzhuang at the initial period of its construction in the 1950s and the construction of the residences followed the Soviet model—adopting a standard design for the whole housing development. which is regarded as the “first residential area in the capital,” was designed by Zhang Kaiji, a famous Chinese architect.

Figure source: “1950s (Soviet-style large board tube-shaped apartment).“ Beijing Municipal Commission of Planning and Natural Resources. June 1, 2020.
                   Baiwanzhuang, 2015 (Photo by Wang Yuhu)
  • Low-rise High-density
The 180 apartments were designed and built for retired government officers. There are 9 areas of red brick buildings, and each neighborhood has 30 units. Each building has three floors and a total of 6 Single-family rooms.
The lower floors provide mobility for the elderly. Although high density brings congestion, it reduces the feeling of loneliness for the elderly.

  • Supporting Facilities and Virescence
The complete commercial facilities around the neighborhood not only bring convenience to the life of the elderly, but also increase the independence of the elderly and reduce the burden on their children. The green area makes the elderly willing to spend more time walking outside.

︎Chen Area

Baiwanzhang is composed of 9 zones, and I am carrying out a pilot study in the Chen area indicated here. Because the phenomenon of ad-hoc, private construction is serious in this zone, the density of buildings is high there. In this diagram, the image shows that the space between buildings is narrow, decreasing walkability and the possible range of outdoor activity.

Multipe Generational Unit
There are four different apartment types in the 35 buildings in the Chen area. Their maximum area is no more than 90 square meters, and the minimum area is only 60 square meters.

Interior Renovation
During the early period of New China, the brick-concrete structure is the main construction form of residence, which means that most of them are load-bearing walls, only a small part is not. Based on limited renovation, I added a separate restroom to Multiple generational families, which shortened the distance for the elderly to go to the restroom and provided more space for wheelchair access.
There are two different types of rooms in the Chen area, one with a closed balcony and the other with a semi-open balcony. Their respective directions are one facing west and the other facing north.

                                               Before                                                                                                                     After

  • ︎ Envelope

    The current structure of the building
                                                                  Before                                                                               After

︎ Daylighting

The purpose of this renovation is to increase natural light, thermal insulation and help elderly saving cost without changing the size of the windows.
Solution: Replace the glass to achieve maximum thermal insulation and daylighting. (Emphasis on U-value and TVIS); Replace cost-effective glass.

After the renovation, although the area of some paces was reduced due to reconstruction, the Spatial Daylight Autonomy and Annual Sunlight Exposure was increased. I simulate different kinds of glass in the renovation room. These different glass materials will also change SDA and ASE, and also bring different energy and comfort. To save the expense of the elderly, I first eliminated triple-pane glass. Because it is expensive. By comparing single pane glass with double-pane glass, Single pane glass has better SDA and better price, but it will lose some thermal comfort. After comparison, the glass of the third simulation saves costs and more thermal comfort.

More Details To Come!