Special Issue "The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Tourism, Culture, and Heritage".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2020.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Simona M. C. Porto
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania, via S. Sofia n. 100, 95123 Catania, Italy
Interests: biosystems engineering; buildings for agriculture, animal husbandry, protected crops, rural dwellings; analysis and modelling of biological systems in relation to rural buildings; classification, recovery and enhancement of traditional rural building heritage; survey, representation, analysis, modelling and planning of the rural territory

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

World’s population is becoming increasingly urban. Migrations from rural areas to urban centres are mainly due to the concentration of industry expertise into big cities as well as goods and services supplied to urban people. These movements impact on both infrastructures and built areas as new viability, dwellings, and facilities are required in order to support larger populations. This condition, which makes cities highly populated at a level never observed before with a detriment of city life quality, led urban people to new uses of the countryside, alternative to the agricultural one according to the new principles of the multifunctional agriculture.

In this context, traditional rural buildings (TRBs) could be considered a relevant cultural, social and economic resource due to  their potential to be converted for new functional destinations. On the one hand this potential could give renewed life to TRBs, on the other hand it  may also create potential threats to the cultural and environmental characteristics of such kind of buildings. TRBs were built by using materials and construction techniques rooted in the territorial context where they are located, they constitute anthropic elements that could enhance landscape quality and, at the same time, they are a testimony of the socio-cultural and economic characteristics of the historical period when they were built. Their conservation, recovery and valorisation could help the preservation of local community identities and could improve territorial attractiveness. This issue is widely treated in the scientific community as well as among several international organizations that deal with the recovery and reuse of built vernacular heritage, such as ECOVAST and ICOMOS.

In order to assure a sustainable re-use of TRBs, it is necessary to develop widespread awareness of the intrinsic cultural values of TRBs, especially among local communities and visitors. People involved within programs which aim at divulgating TRBs’ cultural value could develop a sense of care for such buildings and this would constitute the basis for their preservation.

On this basis, the objective of this special issue is to explore the concept of sustainability in TRBs re-use. Authors are invited to submit original papers which will regard:

  • studies on sustainable functional reutilization of TRBs without compromising their original characters with particular reference to building materials, building techniques and indoor functional distribution;
  • sustainable planning of social, cultural and economic activities which could promote multifunctional use of TRBs and rural areas;
  • local studies on the sustainable integration of TRBs with the physical, social, economic and cultural environment;
  • development of methodologies, such as life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC), to determine environmental and economic costs of TRBs’ reuse;
  • building of information modelling (BIM) methods to create frameworks for monitoring the maintenance of TRBs, with particular reference to reused ones;
  • exploration of traditional building techniques applied for reusing TRBs in order to improve environmental sustainability.

Dr. Simona M. C. Porto
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Vernacular heritage
  • Old rural buildings
  • Sustainable building materials and techniques
  • Local traditions
  • Sustainable planning of activities in rural area

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Deep Learning Model for Form Recognition and Structural Member Classification of East Asian Traditional Buildings
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5292; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135292 - 30 Jun 2020
Abstract
The unique characteristics of traditional buildings can provide fresh insights for sustainable building development. In this study, a deep learning model and methodology were developed for classifying traditional buildings by using artificial intelligence (AI)-based image analysis technology. The model was constructed based on [...] Read more.
The unique characteristics of traditional buildings can provide fresh insights for sustainable building development. In this study, a deep learning model and methodology were developed for classifying traditional buildings by using artificial intelligence (AI)-based image analysis technology. The model was constructed based on expert knowledge of East Asian buildings. Videos and images from Korea, Japan, and China were used to determine building types and classify and locate structural members. Two deep learning algorithms were applied to object recognition: a region-based convolutional neural network (R-CNN) to distinguish traditional buildings by country and you only look once (YOLO) to recognise structural members. A cloud environment was used to develop a practical model that can handle various environments in real time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessArticle
Innovative Multidisciplinary Methodology for the Analysis of Traditional Marginal Architecture
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1285; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041285 - 11 Feb 2020
Abstract
In rural and marginal landscapes, the architectural heritage carries an inestimable value. It distinguishes these places from the standardization of contemporary society and it makes them authentic and rooted in the territory. Investigating the real potential of building heritage and understanding what actions [...] Read more.
In rural and marginal landscapes, the architectural heritage carries an inestimable value. It distinguishes these places from the standardization of contemporary society and it makes them authentic and rooted in the territory. Investigating the real potential of building heritage and understanding what actions should be taken to raise it to the needs of contemporary society is one way to preserve this authenticity. The article presents an innovative multidisciplinary tool, based on GIS methodology, for rapid evaluation of the features of traditional rural architecture. With it, it is possible to carry out a complex analysis, by considering architectural, energy and structural items. It can also guide the design activities in order to optimize the revitalization actions, emphasizing the holistic approach. The potentiality of this procedure will be shown for a test site, namely, the Isle of Filicudi (Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessment of Passive Retrofitting Strategies to Improve the Thermal Performance of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Storage Area in Traditional Rural Olive Mills
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 194; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010194 - 25 Dec 2019
Abstract
The quality of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is strongly correlated to the fatty acid alkyl esters (FAEE) content. High storage temperature leads to degradation of positive oil attributes in the long term, while low temperature develops rancidity quickly, thus reducing the consumer’s acceptance [...] Read more.
The quality of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is strongly correlated to the fatty acid alkyl esters (FAEE) content. High storage temperature leads to degradation of positive oil attributes in the long term, while low temperature develops rancidity quickly, thus reducing the consumer’s acceptance and, therefore, the shelf life of EVOO. In Calabria, there are many traditional olive mills, yet only few are utilized nowadays. This is mainly due to the low building performance—in particular to the temperature control inside the oil storage area. This paper illustrates the thermal analysis carried out on a famous historical olive mill located in Lamezia Terme, the best agricultural land in Calabria. A thermal retrofitting assessment was conducted, and eight different passive strategies were evaluated to improve the sustainability of the buildings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessArticle
A Study on the Sustainability of the Traditional Sirinić Houses in the Šar Mountain Region, the South-Western Balkans
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4711; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174711 - 29 Aug 2019
Abstract
The research of traditional rural architecture in developing regions is important to both the preservation of cultural heritage and the mitigation of the trends and consequences of unsustainable rural shifts. In the Western Balkans, for example, negative transformation of the rural environment happens [...] Read more.
The research of traditional rural architecture in developing regions is important to both the preservation of cultural heritage and the mitigation of the trends and consequences of unsustainable rural shifts. In the Western Balkans, for example, negative transformation of the rural environment happens more rapidly than the recording of its traditional built assets. For that reason, the objectives of the present research were to explore general and specific (sustainability-related) characteristics of traditional rural houses in the so far insufficiently studied microregion of the Western Balkans of Sirinićka Župa (Sirinić), to reveal their values and to initiate discussion of the role of heritage regeneration in sustainable rural development. Study has shown that the most significant values of Sirinić houses include opulent spatial-functional typology, distinct architectural expression, and sustainability-related quality in terms of applied materials, structural systems, and multipurpose techniques and elements, as well as a high level of spatial comfort. A necessary regeneration of the traditional houses of Sirinićka Župa must be formulated in a way that enables preservation of recognized general values and further improvement of environmental quality and climate resilience. Simultaneously, functional reactivation of traditional houses should be understood as a contribution to the sustainable development of Sirinićka Župa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Rural Buildings on Landscape Fragmentation in Natura 2000 Sites: A Case Study in Sardinia
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4695; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174695 - 28 Aug 2019
Abstract
Landscape fragmentation (LF) is the process where habitat patches tend to become smaller and more isolated over time. It is mainly due to human activities and affects habitats, biodiversity, ecosystem balance, and ecological networks. Transport and mobility infrastructures and urbanized areas—also in the [...] Read more.
Landscape fragmentation (LF) is the process where habitat patches tend to become smaller and more isolated over time. It is mainly due to human activities and affects habitats, biodiversity, ecosystem balance, and ecological networks. Transport and mobility infrastructures and urbanized areas—also in the form of suburban and rural sprawl—contribute to LF and can be localized close to (or included in) Natura 2000 sites (N2000 sites). N2000 sites are set according to the Habitats and Birds Directives and consist of special protection areas, sites of community importance, and special areas of conservation, where LF may threaten habitat quality and species survival and dispersal. Then, new rules and planning approaches are called for defining effective protection measures. The knowledge of the context appears to be a priority to achieve such aims. Therefore, this study focuses on LF in N2000 sites. We apply the rural buildings fragmentation index (RBFI) and the effective mesh density (Seff) in six landscape units in Sardinia (Italy). Then, we report on the least and the most fragmented N2000 sites and assess if there is correlation between RBFI and Seff. In this study, RBFI and Seff provide not trivial outcomes, as they are weakly and positively correlated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessArticle
Multidimensional Measurement of the Level of Consistency of Farm Buildings with Rural Heritage: A Methodology Tested on an Italian Case Study
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4242; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154242 - 06 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The industrialization after World War II marked a severe discontinuity between rural heritage and contemporary farm buildings. Rural landscapes have thus become more and more uniform; historical buildings are often abandoned and degraded, while contemporary buildings are often disconnected from their surrounding environment. [...] Read more.
The industrialization after World War II marked a severe discontinuity between rural heritage and contemporary farm buildings. Rural landscapes have thus become more and more uniform; historical buildings are often abandoned and degraded, while contemporary buildings are often disconnected from their surrounding environment. Besides aiming to protect and restore rural heritage—more and more acknowledged as a common good contributing to societal identity—attention should be paid to increasing the quality of new buildings, a crucial issue to improve landscape quality in everyday landscape contexts. Based on a series of previous studies carried out to develop and test a robust methodology allowing the analysis of the main formal features of rural buildings, organized in a comprehensive framework known as the FarmBuiLD model (Farm Building Landscape Design), this study aims to perform an integrated and compared analysis of sets of traditional and contemporary rural buildings through experimental trials on an Italian case study. In particular, the study focuses on defining and measuring indexes allowing the quantification of the level of consistency of contemporary buildings with the traditional typologies. A contemporary farm building is evaluated based on the distance of each of its formal features from those which proved to be representative of the corresponding traditional building type, evaluated through a cluster analysis of the typological characters of traditional buildings in the study area. The results showed that different degrees of dissonance can be detected. Similarities have been found, in particular with respect to the shape of buildings and their closure with regards to landscape. The major dissonances are related to the perception of buildings as flattened on the ground, due to their excessively elongated shape, and in the case of buildings completely permeable to landscape, this being necessary for structural purposes and for the type of use of historic buildings. The expected impact of this study is to provide designers and planners with indicators allowing the evaluation, on an objective basis, of the level of consistency of new buildings with local rural heritage, thus supporting both design phases and project evaluation as well as building management processes (maintenance, restoration, extension, change in use, etc.). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Organized Framework of Main Possible Applications of Sheep Wool Fibers in Building Components
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 761; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030761 - 21 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Greasy sheep wool is currently considered a special waste for its high bacterial load, with expensive disposal costs for sheep breeders. For this reason, wool is often burned or buried, with serious consequences for the environment. On the other hand, sheep wool is [...] Read more.
Greasy sheep wool is currently considered a special waste for its high bacterial load, with expensive disposal costs for sheep breeders. For this reason, wool is often burned or buried, with serious consequences for the environment. On the other hand, sheep wool is well regarded as one of the most performative insulating natural fibers due to its thermo-hygrometric and acoustic properties. In the building sector, sheep wool meets the requirements of green building components because it is an eco-friendly material, there is a surplus of it, it is annually renewable, and totally recyclable. If used instead of common insulation materials (e.g., fiberglass, rock wool, polyurethane foam, polystyrene), sheep wool offers significant benefits for sustainability such as a reduction in the production costs for new insulating materials and in environmental pollution. Mechanical and physical properties of sheep wool investigated in previous studies were assessed and discussed with the aim of providing an organized framework of possible applications of wool fibers in building components. This paper highlights in detail aspects that have not yet been investigated enough to detect new potential uses of sheep wool fibers in rural buildings and the reuse of traditional ones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Open AccessReview
Physical Properties of Straw Bales as a Construction Material: A Review
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3388; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123388 - 19 Jun 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
Straw bale buildings provide significant benefits in terms of costs, human health, and environmental sustainability. Several studies in different regions have underlined the remarkable properties of straw bales as insulating and construction material; however, to the authors’ knowledge, there are no reviews published [...] Read more.
Straw bale buildings provide significant benefits in terms of costs, human health, and environmental sustainability. Several studies in different regions have underlined the remarkable properties of straw bales as insulating and construction material; however, to the authors’ knowledge, there are no reviews published on this topic. The main objective of this paper is to provide a better understanding of straw bale systems, focusing on durability and thermal and acoustic insulation properties. To this end, previous tests and studies on straw bale buildings around the world were reviewed, comparing their results, assessing where research currently stands, and identifying the aspects that need to be further investigated. Results from previous tests have highlighted their ability to achieve excellent living comfort and encouraged their use. Guidelines for the characteristics to be achieved during the baling process are now required. Combining straw bale walls with a render or any type of high-density layer can improve both the thermal and acoustic properties of straw bale constructions. Finally, a quantitative assessment of the most significant properties, such as thermal resistance and acoustic insulation, is necessary to reduce the gap between straw bales and traditional building materials. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Exploration of Sustainability in Traditional Rural Buildings)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Shared Design Criteria for the Enhancement of Cultural and Natural Heritage of Rural Landscape: The Case Study of an Italian Woodland

Author: Patrizia Tassinari

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