Working with Fellow Granada University Students

Throughout the internship, we have been working with two architecture students from Granada University, Marisol and Christina. They assisted in our research by conducting an energy rating system on the Casa de Zafra and calculating the water evaporated from the Casa de Zafra and Comares Palace water cooling system and how it has affected the temperature in the building.

Marisol helped with calculating the water systems behavior and found great information about how the water system in both case studies did indeed work. The freshwater pools in the center of the building decreased the temperature in the area by a few degrees, thus offering an area for people to cool off. However, this technique brings in much concern for sustainability. Using fresh water for cooling and allowing it to evaporate instead of using it to drink, is not sustainable since fresh water supply is rapidly decreasing. Below is an image of the Comares Palace water cooling system which entails gravity bringing in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada to the home and into a pool in the center of the building.

As for Christina, she worked on an energy rating system, the CE3X software, on Casa de Zafra, which concluded interesting results. The energy rating revealed that the home gave off low emissions, and had low energy consumption of non-renewables. However, received a low grade for the energy required for heating and cooling. It’s important to keep in mind that this is because of the 14th Century materials the home used, therefore does not reflect the value of the homes energy savings features. Back in the 14th century they didn’t have many options for insulation and were limited to using only wood and brick for construction. However, in today’s time this home with the same features and having access to the current materials in our society would have thrived, while still consuming little energy. Below is an image of Casa de Zafra.

Casa de Zafra y Comares Palace


This is my last week for my internship in Granada and it’s a bittersweet moment. My research in Granada is based upon two case studies. The Casa de Zafra and the Comares Palace. Casa de Zafra is an amazing example of the 14th Century architecture in Granada, Spain. It resembles the Comares but on a smaller scale. This home is considered a Nazari noble home located in the outskirts of the Alhambra, in an area called the Albaicin. There are many 14th Century architecture and designs that has allowed this home to adapt to the surrounding environment in order to have a desirable indoor temperature, without the use of electricity. These characteristics include: Long axis runs east to west, light colors, wide porches, and water cooling.


Pictures of Casa de Zafra:



The Comares is a beautiful palace that was used as the official residence for the King. Commonly known as the Patio de Comares or Comares Palace, it’s located within the Alhambra and over looks the views of the Albaicin, which is where Casa de Zafra is located. This palace has many similar characteristics to the Casa de Zafra such as having the palace’s long axis running east to west, utilizing light colors, wide porches, and using water to cool the space. However, the Comares does use additional features such as passive ventilation and vegetation. Though Casa de Zafra has some ventilation in place to air out the home, Comares has more of a predominate presence of passive ventilation.


Pictures of the Comares Palace:


The characteristics from both of these building will be used in my research to see if it’s possible to take these features and use them in modern homes in order to conserve energy. Thus far I have found that it is quite possible to adopt most of these features to modern homes. However, using a pool of fresh water for cooling causes some concern because of the sustainability aspect. With a water crisis already upon us, it isn’t wise to use a finite resource to regulate temperature.

Universidad de Granada

Throughout my research here in Granada, much of our time takes place in the school of architecture at the University of Granada. This school is a perfect example of how to incorporate great features that help conserve energy. Such as the feature shown in the image below. The windows they have in place contain a small opening in order to allow cool winds to come through during the winter months without having to open up the whole space to the external environment. These openings even allow for ventilation and air flow throughout the summer months.


Many places around Granada and even the school is not fully enclosed and equipped with A/C. They try to use smart features such as the windows in order to adjust the indoor temperature without using electricity. However, because some summer days will be quite hot, they do have A/C throughout certain rooms. Though the heat in Granada can be intense at times, their air is dry. Thus they do not face as many problems as we do in Florida with the high humidity. So when students are studying inside the classroom and have vents open to allow circulation, the room tends to stay quite cool.

The images below show other parts of the architectural school. They have an open design and use natural materials in order to block the sun and provide shade for the hallways of the building. It was very interesting to walk around and see features in this modern building that resembles the 14th century architecture I’m studying. The building features passive ventilation (no energy required to create ventilation in the building) and wide hallways in order to prevent direct heat from hitting the building. Studying at this University has widely helped my research in seeing how the 14th Century architecture can be used in modern ways in order to conserve energy.



Exploring the Alhambra

Roughly the first two weeks of the internship, Jennifer and I attended meetings with our advisor Rafael in order to discuss the direction of our research. With both of our topics changed and a language barrier, these meetings provided to be quite difficult. As well as the fact that we met only for an hour or so 3 times a week and left for the rest of the days to find our own research, teach ourselves, and locate our case studies in the city on our own. However, this proved to be quite an experience and with time we found a way to make the best out of the best situation.

As the weeks progressed and Rafael was continuing to grasp the concept of sustainability, our meetings became much more effective. We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to tag along with a New York Architectural class that was studying abroad in Europe. The class was being given a tour of the Alhambra, which is the palace and fortress in Granada, as well as the location where our research was taking place. Their tour guide was Javier Gallego Roca (shown in image below), a famous architectural restoration Professor and luckily Rafael knew him very well and was able to get us on the private tour.  

It was a great experience and we were able to learn about how the buildings were constructed, as well as how they adapted to the surrounding climate. Which is crucial to my research since I’m studying how these buildings in Granada have adapted to their climate, without consuming energy. It was also a great experience to have met students who were studying architecture and being able to see their drawing of the Alhambra. We even got the opportunity to network with Professor Roca, in case we had questions in the future with our research. 

Beginning to Embracing Granada

I arrived to Granada, Spain on June 5th with an open mind and with an attitude ready to explore such a historic city. To my pleasure, the city has been everything that I imagined and more. It’s a beautiful historic district with live music, great people, and many quaint restaurants. Below are photos of Granada:

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As many internships, the research topic and materials were slightly changed when arriving here. Though this way a huge hiccup, I took this opportunity to learn a huge life lesson which is: Many times things aren’t what you expect them to be, but finding the best out of any situation is what will move you forward and surprisingly may lead you to a better path. Fortunately, my research was changed to a topic that sparks even more interest and excitement than my original plan. My new topic will be looking at how 14th Century architecture provides energy efficiency and ways that these behaviors can be adopted to modern buildings. For instance, the positioning of a home can provide more sunlight for the winter months and less sunlight during the summer months because of the way the home is positioned, which was a common characteristic for the 14th century buildings in Granada, Spain.

More specifically, I will be focusing on a building in the Alhambra and the Casa de Zafra, which is outside the Alhambra. The Alhambra was the arabic’s (Moorish) palace and fortress located in Granada. And the Casa de Zafra is one of the oldest buildings located in the outskirts of the Alhambra and was used for many purposes through the centuries, but was mainly a Nazari noble home. I will be studying the Casa de Zafra and the Alhambra’s building characteristcis that exemplify’s energy efficiency. My whole project plays on the notion that we can look to our past in order to find the answers we need in the future. Below are photo’s of the Casa de Zafra, the first photo shows the Alhambra in the background:

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I’m excited to see how my research develops throughout the course of the internship. I’m hoping to find significant information on how we can make buildings more energy efficient during the developmental stages. Thinking about the positioning of the home, the materials used, and how spaces are designed can significantly reduce the energy usage. And I hope to also tie in the concept of passive homes becoming a more common practice here in Spain, the United States, and potentially throughout the globe.