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A Bio-climatic Study of Caved Buildings in Santorini

Part 1 Dissertation 2003
Maria Nazlidou
Leeds Beckett University Leeds UK
Santorini belongs to the Cycladean Archipelago, which lies in South Aegean. Due to the climate and the geology of the island the people who lived there hundreds of years ago found a unique way to build their houses into the rock. Thus, they were protected from the weather and the pirate raids. These houses can be considered as an early type of bio-climatic structure. The interesting part is that these people achieved with very simple techniques and very few means what bio-climatic architecture is trying to achieve nowadays with more up-to-date means.

The research was mostly based on original research in Santorini. For the purpose of the research five buildings have been chosen in four different locations in the island, in order to test the performance of caved buildings in relation to the orientation and the building alternatives. For each dwelling there is a plan with dimensions, measurements of temperature and relative humidity of external and internal spaces related to the day and the time each measurement was taken and a bio-climatic chart with the comfort zone and the measurements from each house. Photographs of details in and out of each house were also taken (windows, doors, wall thickness) and photographs every three hours between 9:00 and 21:00 showing the sun path in each case, in order to relate the amount of sunshine and the weather conditions to the measurements.

The purpose of this research project was not simply to prove that, at specific time and place, local builders built this unique kind of structure. The reason for studying these houses is to learn from them and create a better and economical built environment to live in, with a proper use of technology respecting the natural environment and its energy resources.

Maria Nazlidou


This is a thorough piece of original research. In 2001, at my suggestion, another Greek student examined the subterranean dwellings in Mesagonia, Santorini These dwellings are not inhabited and mostly in poor repair. The work was largely descriptive but Maria decided to use it as a starting point. She discovered inhabited subterranean dwellings in several parts of the island and got permission to take temperature and humidity measurements in them.

She worked closely with our environmental physicist, Professor Robert Lowe, to establish a methodology and arranged to borrow equipment from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

In the summer of 2002 she spent at least 24 hours in each of five buildings, surveyed and photographed them and took environmental measurements. The aim was to see what could be learnt from traditional buildings that could be applied to current sustainable design.

Although this is a technical study it is accessible and beautifully illustrated. Some of her English is a little quaint, but quite an achievement for someone whose first language is Greek.

LMU students do not usually tackle technical subjects for their critical study. It is refreshing to find a study that is useful, accurate and radiates enjoyment.

2003
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