Have We Reached the End of Air Conditioning?
On a hot and humid summer day it’s common to want to seek refuge in an air conditioned building. In fact, it has become so common that three-quarters of all homes in the United States have air conditioners1 - a number that is projected to increase in the coming years. With the alarming amount of dependency on air conditioning across the world, it has become an undeniable phenomenon that needs to be addressed before it continually worsens the environment.
Since the invention of the air conditioner, most clients have neglected natural properties as a way to keep their house cool. The International Energy Agency (IAE) suggests that heating and cooling systems account for 40% of global building energy consumption and the number is predicted to rise with an estimated 80% of air conditioning demand coming from Asia by 2050. The number of people with air conditioning in China is even higher with the amount of individuals that have air conditioning exceeding 100 percent - meaning that there is more than one room with an air condition per urban household 2 . Unfortunately in both instances the amount of air conditioners will only continue to expand unless architects reintroduce bioclimatic architecture.
Bioclimatic architecture refers to building designs that embrace and respond to the local environment in favour of thermal comfort inside. It uses natural elements such as the sun, wind, rain, and vegetation to form a perfect cohesion between design and natural elements. Unfortunately, since the invention of air conditioning Bioclimatic architecture has been overshadowed since its first discovery in the early 1950’s. Luckily, in recent years there has been promise for its revival.
The director of T3 Architecture Asia, Charles Gallavardin, first experimented with bioclimatic architecture in 2005. He constructed an affordable apartment building in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The apartment complex features covered open-air corridors, ventilating roofs, fiber-glass insulation and natural materials. The blend of materials used gives each unit in the complex both natural light and ventilation which is essential when designing a bioclimatic building.
When Gallavardin was asked in an interview conducted by CNN about the viability of bioclimatic to cool, Gallavardin explains that "if you work with the main wind stream and have smart sun protection, you can do it -- you really can design buildings that need no air conditioning."
Since the success of the apartment building in Vietnam, Gallavardin has proposed multiple other locations using Bioclimatic architecture like the KOKOIS Concept Store. The building uses thermally dense walls to retain heat or chill, small windows to reduce solar gain or overheating on the side that has the afternoon sun, larger windows to the north to bring in light once the sun has shifted to the other side of your building, and plants to keep things cool and fresh.
In addition to considering interior design choices, Gallavardin suggests covered open-air corridors, ventilated roofs, fiberglass insulation and landscaping with plants as a way to further cool down the building. While T3 Architecture Asia has been the key company known for their Bioclimatic architecture, other companies have ventured into this area and it is a trend that we think will definitely gain momentum in the years to come.