The project’s main aim is to gain knowledge from the fundamental lessons and principles of the vernacular architecture, and to explore new ways to apply those principles into contemporary sustainable architecture. VerSus research project was based on the identification of strategies and principles within vernacular heritage, in order to define a conceptual approach for sustainable architectural design. Based on the review of literature and the analysis and interpretation of case studies from vernacular and contemporary architecture, data was collected and a research method was developed to provide operative knowledge that could be integrated on design studio processes, in order to improve the sustainability of contemporary architecture, at environmental, social and economical levels.


The scientific research addressed first the identification and collection of a vast bibliography, the revision of the literature, the preliminary data collection, and the interpretation and comparative analysis of the collected data. This contributed to the definition of the state of the art and of the operative research approach. Following, it was established criteria for case studies selection, and the definition of procedures of work. Field missions in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, as well as their islands, were also addressed, in order to evaluate ‘in situ’ the conditions of the selected vernacular case studies and of the contemporary examples with integrated vernacular heritage principles. An operative approach was achieved resulting from the research methodology.

Literature Review

A preliminary literature review was concentrated on Vernacular Architecture, followed by sustainable development and the literature crossing both fields. This contributed for an outline approach on how to address the overall data collection, in order to have a consistent research process, in what concerns the revision of the literature.

Regarding vernacular architecture literature, a great number of descriptive inventories were identified, in which, the sustainable features were related mostly to cultural values and ethnographic aspects. Following, international journals, conference proceedings and specific publications were revised to identify trends and patterns of approach. As a result, it was noticed that in recent years, there was a rising of publications addressing a reinterpretation of the contribution of Vernacular Heritage to the future (Asquith & Velinga, 2006) (Frey & Bouchain, 2010).

Relevant knowledge based on the bioclimatic/ passive solutions had also captured the interest of the vernacular architecture experts. The bioclimatic area emerged and had its best application on the trinomial: environment - energy - economy (Correia et al., 2014a).

It was also perceived that the literature published since 2005 revealed a tendency indicating a direct connection between vernacular architecture and sustainable architecture. This evolved from the confrontation of building performances to the studies on how to apply traditional solutions in contemporary architecture (Sánchez-Montañés 2007).

The entry of bibliography regarding Vernacular & Design Strategies, constituted, in theory, a parallel to the VerSus project objectives. It was not surprising to observe that it was amongst these issues that were found the fundamental references, to launch the conceptual draft for the methodological proposal (Correia et al., 2014a).


Asquith, L. & Velinga, M., 2006. Vernacular Architecture in the Twenty-First century. Oxon: Taylor & Francis.

Correia, M., Carlos, G., Merten, J., Viana, D. & Rocha, S., 2014a. VerSus: Vernacular heritage contribution to sustainable architecture. In Correia, Carlos & Rocha (eds) 2014. Vernacular Heritage and Earthen Architecture. Contributions for Sustainable Development. London: CRC/ Balkema/ Taylor & Francis Group, p.833–838

Correia, M., Carlos, G. & Rocha, S. (eds) 2014b. Vernacular Heritage and Earthen Architecture: Contributions for Sustainable Development. London: CRC/ Balkema/ Taylor & Francis Group.

Frey, P. & Bouchain, M., 2010. Learning from vernacular: towards a new vernacular architecture. Tours: Actes Sud.

Sánchez-Montañés Macías, B.A., 2007. Estrategias medioambientales de la arquitectura vernácula como fundamento de sostenibilidad futura. Necesidad de la aplicación de los principios científicos de la arquitectura. In Arquitectura vernácula en el mundo ibérico: actas del congreso internacional sobre arquitectura vernacular. Sevilla: Universidad Pablo Olavide, p.406–414.

ESG Research Projects

3dPast (2016-2020)

Seismic V (2013-2015)

Terra Incognita (2009-2011)