Saturday, December 30, 2023

Staying Cool Without AC

I seldom see something in the Washington Post with which I agree. That said, here is something they are touting which I have experienced myself - designing buildings for hot climates which need little or no air conditioning. has the story out from behind WaPo's paywall.

Author Philip Kennicott has done a quite good job of describing building techniques utilizing three things often available free or nearly so: earth, water, and wind. His area of study, traditional buildings in North Africa and Asia Minor.

I encountered these techniques in a very different part of the world - Vietnam. The other DrC and I were there off a large cruise ship docked at Phu My. As lecturers we didn't work on days in port, so we took a tour into the former Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. The day was sweltering.

Among other places, the tour visited the Independence Palace, the repurposed Presidential Palace of South Vietnam set in spacious grounds, designed by local architect Ngô Viết Thụ. It is a beautiful building, and very clever. The architect won serious prizes in France.

What was striking to me about the Independence Palace, was that it was open to the outside air, not air conditioned, and still very comfortable. Many of the characteristics described by Kennicott were incorporated into its design. I was beyond impressed.

One supposes several cultures in hot places independently discovered the principles of staying cool in hot climates. Many of these are based around the physics of heat transmission, the natural rising of hot air, the evaporation of water, and the creative uses of shade, wind, light, and shadow. None utilize machinery or intensive energy sources (i.e., air conditioning).