Summer heat waves may be behind us, but don’t ignore them just yet. What can we do, except turn on the air conditioning?
For millennia, people from ancient Egypt to the Persian Empire have struggled with the heat. And his solution, the “wind catcher”, could once again help us in our quest for emission-free cooling.
The problem: It’s hot. It will be warmer.
87% of all US homes have air conditioners, and air conditioning accounts for 12% of residential energy consumption. In addition to the fossil fuels that power them, many use refrigerants to cool the air, which can become potent greenhouse gases if released.
In addition, air conditioners cool us by capturing heat from inside buildings, but expelling it outside, directly heating the environment and contributing to the urban heat island effect.
Innovators are hard at work finding ways to cope with the new normal: extreme heat and rising temperatures. Creativity is high, from apps that help pedestrians find cool paths and shady spots to cutting-edge technologies like coolant paint that lowers the temperature inside homes.
Although heat waves invade cold climates, there have always been warm places on the planet. And if people live there, it’s because they have found ways to control the heat.
On Iran’s hot and arid plateau, ancient structures called “windcatchers” attract scholars, engineers and architects who want to find new (and old) creative ways to cool off.
Windcatchers, or bâdgir in Persian, are common structures that extend above rooftops in rectangular towers, the BBC reports. They made life possible. And because of what cool a building without using electricity or fuelare an attractive ecological solution.
How it works:
Windcatchers are tall, chimney-like structures that extend from the roof of a building. They take advantage of the cool wind and direct it throughout the building.
Wind sensors are designed differently depending on prevailing winds and temperatures in an area. The simplest design faces the tower opening towards the prevailing wind to create natural ventilation. But local climates are complicated and windcatchers often had many features: filters, passive cooling systems (passing hot air over cold water) or multiple openings to account for different wind directions.
Researchers from Weber State University in the US told the Sustainability Times that “these systems were eventually refined to the point where they could sometimes reach refrigeration temperatures”.
Many elements were considered when designing a tower (building layout, addition of internal blades) to optimize how cool air was drawn into the home and hot air was exhausted .
Are we going to resurrect this old technology?
Parham Kheirkhah Sangdeh, a researcher at the University of Ilam in Iran, studies the scientific application and culture of windcatchers in contemporary architecture. He says the pests, dust and debris prompted people to stop using traditional windcatchers and embrace Western technology.
“There must be changes in cultural perspectives to use these technologies. People need to look back and understand why energy conservation matters,” Kheirkhah Sangdeh told the BBC. “It starts with recognizing the cultural history and importance of energy conservation. .”
But the technology has not completely disappeared.
Free Running Buildings is a start-up that creates commercially available products in the UK from old wind towers. Its “FREECOOL” technology will crown the newly renovated Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, just in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
MAS Architecture Studio in Dubai created a wind tower to keep students cool, using 480 layers of recycled cardboard. The Kensington Oval, a stadium in Barbados, has a single giant wind blade perched atop. A wind sensor was used at the visitor center in Zion National Park, Utah.