As the summer months approach, it’s inevitable to start thinking about cooling solutions. Especially those that don't cost hundreds of pounds in energy bills and even more cost to the planet.
Although technology does advance at a rapid rate, it is important for us to look back into the past (and not the distant past) to see that we've had traditional methods to cool down homes since time immemorial. In this article, we'll discuss all the ways that cultures around the globe have cooled down their homes for thousands of years. No traditional air conditioning, no unmanageable energy bills. Just design.
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01. Passive cooling
Passive cooling is a design technique that aims to use natural elements and energy flows to cool a building without using any additional energy. It involves designing a building's structure and layout to take advantage of natural airflows, shading, and other features to maintain a comfortable temperature inside.
How does passive cooling work?
Passive cooling works by taking advantage of the natural elements that surround a building. For example, a building's orientation can be optimised to take advantage of prevailing winds and breezes. Strategically placed windows, vents, and openings can also help to create a cross-ventilation effect, allowing cool air to flow through the building while warm air is vented out.
Other passive cooling techniques include using shading devices like awnings, louvres, or pergolas to block the sun's rays, and using thermal mass materials like brick or concrete to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. Green roofs and walls can also help to cool buildings by providing insulation and reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the building.
Why choose passive cooling?
Passive cooling is an excellent choice for those looking for sustainable and energy-efficient cooling solutions. It can reduce a building's energy consumption by up to 90%, resulting in significant cost savings on energy bills. Additionally, passive cooling can improve indoor air quality and comfort levels, making it an excellent choice for those with allergies or respiratory issues.
And don’t forget; passive cooling is a great way to reduce a building's environmental impact. By using natural elements to cool a building, passive cooling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps to mitigate the effects of climate change.
02. Evaporation cooling
Evaporative cooling is a natural cooling process that uses water to lower the temperature of the air. It works by drawing hot air through water-saturated pads, which causes the water to evaporate and the air to cool. The cooled air is then circulated throughout a building using a fan, providing a comfortable living or working space.
How do you actually make evaporation cooling work?
This method is simpler than it looks. Evaporative cooling units consist of a fan, water pump, and a cooling pad. The pad is made of a material that can hold water and is installed on the outside of a building. The fan draws hot air from outside through the wet pad, causing the water to evaporate and the air to cool. The cooled air is then circulated throughout the building using a duct system.
Why should you choose evaporation cooling?
There are many reasons why homeowners and architects are choosing evaporative cooling as a sustainable and energy-efficient alternative to traditional air conditioning units. Here are a few:
- Energy efficiency: Evaporative cooling units use much less energy than traditional air conditioning units. They require only a small amount of electricity to power the fan and water pump, making them an excellent choice for those looking to reduce their energy consumption.
- Cost savings: Because evaporative cooling units use less energy, they are much cheaper to run than traditional air conditioning units. This can result in significant cost savings on energy bills over time.
- Eco-Friendly: Evaporative cooling is a natural and eco-friendly way to cool a building. Unlike traditional air conditioning units, which rely on refrigerants and can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, evaporative cooling units use only water and electricity; which can be totally green if using solar panels or certain electrical companies!
03. Geothermal heat pumps
Simply put, geothermal heat pumps are a heating and cooling system that utilises the constant temperature of the earth to regulate the temperature of your home. Unlike traditional HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems that burn fossil fuels to generate heat, geothermal heat pumps use the natural warmth of the earth to provide heating and cooling.
How do geothermal heat pumps work?
The system consists of a loop of pipes buried underground that circulate water. In the winter, the heat pump extracts the warmth from the ground and transfers it into your home through a duct system, providing heating. In the summer, the process is reversed, and the heat pump removes the heat from your home and transfers it back into the ground.
Why you should use geothermal heat pumps
The answer is simple: they're one of the most efficient and eco-friendly heating and cooling options available. Geothermal heat pumps use up to 50% less energy than traditional HVAC systems, which not only saves your clients’ money on your energy bills but also reduces their carbon footprint.
Also, this cooling system is incredibly versatile. Geothermal heat pumps can be used for heating, cooling, and even to provide hot water for your clients’ home. Additionally, they require minimal maintenance and have a lifespan of up to 25 years, making them a smart long-term investment.
04. Traditional building techniques
Sustainable traditional building techniques are building methods that have been used for centuries and are designed to be environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. These techniques often utilise natural materials and heating strategies to regulate the temperature of a home. Some examples of sustainable traditional building techniques include straw bale construction, adobe building, and rammed earth construction.
Straw bale construction
Straw bale construction is a sustainable building method that has been gaining popularity in recent years. This method involves using tightly-packed bales of straw as the primary building material, which are then coated with plaster to create walls. The result is a unique and aesthetically pleasing structure that offers a range of benefits over traditional construction methods.
One of the most significant advantages of straw bale construction is its thermal performance. Straw bale walls provide excellent insulation, making them highly effective at regulating internal temperature and reducing energy costs. This can be especially beneficial in regions with extreme temperatures, where heating and cooling can be a significant expense.
In addition to its energy efficiency, straw bale construction is also highly sustainable. Straw is a renewable resource that is often available locally, which reduces the environmental impact of transporting building materials. Additionally, straw bale walls are highly durable and can last for decades or even centuries with proper maintenance.
When considering straw bale construction, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, moisture will be your number one enemy. While straw bale walls can be highly resistant to fire and pests, excessive moisture can be damaging. To mitigate this risk, it's essential to use appropriate moisture barriers and ventilation systems.
Also, it's worth noting that straw bale construction can be more expensive initially than traditional construction methods. This is due in part to the specialised equipment and expertise required to build straw bale walls. However, over the long term, straw bale construction can be highly cost-effective due to its energy efficiency and durability.
Adobe building is a traditional construction method that has been utilised for centuries in arid and semi-arid regions around the globe. This process involves creating bricks from a mixture of clay, sand, and sometimes straw, which are then sun-dried before being stacked and mortared together to form walls. The outcome is a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing structure with numerous benefits over modern building methods.
Like all the other methods discussed today, it is this type of building’s thermal efficiency that makes it an amazing contender in hotter regions. Adobe walls are thick and dense, providing excellent insulation and thermal mass, which helps regulate internal temperature and lowers energy costs. This is particularly advantageous in areas with extreme temperatures, where heating and cooling expenses can be significant.
Aside from its energy efficiency, adobe construction is also highly sustainable. The materials used in adobe building are readily available and often locally sourced, reducing the environmental impact of transporting building materials. Additionally, adobe walls are extremely durable and can last for centuries with proper maintenance.
When considering adobe construction, it is essential to work with qualified professionals experienced in this building technique. Adobe construction requires specialised knowledge and techniques, and it is crucial to ensure that the design and construction are executed correctly.
Another factor to consider is the risk of moisture damage. Although adobe walls are highly resistant to fire and pests, excessive moisture can cause damage. Therefore, it is essential to use appropriate moisture barriers and ventilation systems to reduce this risk. Like straw bale construction, the cost might be higher upfront.
Rammed earth is a sustainable building material that has been used for centuries around the world. This method involves using a mixture of soil, sand, gravel, and sometimes cement that is compacted in layers between temporary formwork to create walls. The result is a durable, energy-efficient, and beautiful structure.
One of the most significant benefits of rammed earth construction is its sustainability. Rammed earth walls are made of natural materials that are often readily available on-site, which reduces the environmental impact of transporting building materials. Additionally, the thickness of rammed earth walls provides excellent insulation, which can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs.
Another advantage of rammed earth construction is its durability. Rammed earth walls are incredibly strong and resistant to fire, pests, and weather damage. With proper maintenance, rammed earth buildings can last for centuries, making them an excellent long-term investment.
When considering rammed earth construction, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, it's essential to work with a qualified architect and contractor who have experience with this building technique. Rammed earth construction requires specialized knowledge and techniques, and it's crucial to ensure that the design and construction are executed correctly.
As mentioned before, you must consider the climate of your lcients’ home before committing to anything. Rammed earth construction is best suited for dry or arid climates, as excessive moisture can damage the walls. In humid climates, it may be necessary to use additional waterproofing materials to protect the walls.
Finally, like with the other options, it's essential to consider the cost. While rammed earth construction can be cost-effective over the long term, it can be more expensive initially than traditional building methods. This is due to the specialized equipment and expertise required to build rammed earth walls.
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