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Author Topic: Ancient buildings, methods of construction, cooling and heating we could use today  (Read 6455 times)


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The ancients had a few tricks up their sleeves we are still discovering and learning from.
This article is about an ancient system of cooling a building without AC, a method used in a building
in India.
- Yowbarb

"How did they think up something so elaborate and yet so simple in its basic philosophy?"
Manit Rastogi, Architect

Ancient 'air-conditioning' cools building sustainably
From Nick Glass and George Webster, CNN
updated 12:25 PM EST, Thu March 8, 2012

Slideshow on page:

Jaipur, India (CNN) --
How did buildings keep cool before the invention of air conditioning?

As architects consider how to reduce the energy demands of new builds, some are turning to the
for simple, low-tech solutions.
At the height of summer, in the sweltering industrial suburbs of Jaipur, Rajasthan in north-west India, the Pearl Academy of Fashion remains 20 degrees cooler inside than out -- by drawing on Rajasthan's ancient architecture.
While the exterior appears very much in keeping with the trends of contemporary design,
at the base of the building is a vast pool of water - a cooling concept taken directly from the stepwell structures developed locally over 1,500 years ago
to provide refuge from the desert heat.
Award-winning architect Manit Rastogi, who designed the academy, explains that baoli -- the
Hindi word for stepwell -- are bodies of water encased by a descending set of steps.

Green lessons from Mughal architecture
"When water evaporates in heat, it immediately brings down the temperature of the space around it," he says.
While traditional stepwells often go many stories below ground level, Rastogi's go down just four meters. However, the effect is the same and -- like the ancient Mughal palaces before it -- the
academy enjoys its own microclimate.
Read more from Road to Rio: The slums of Mumbai: A model of urban sustainability?
Rastogi wonders: "How did they think up something so elaborate and yet so simple in its basic philosophy?
"How do you begin to think that you can dig into the ground and use the earth as a
heat sink, have access to water, put a pavilion into it so that its comfortable through the year? It
takes a lot of technology for us to think up something that simple now."
But it's not just the stepwells that are involved in this process of "passive cooling" -- the general term applied to technologies or design features that cool buildings without power consumption.

How did they think up something so elaborate and yet so simple in its basic philosophy?
Manit Rastogi, Architect
The whole building is raised above the ground on pillars, creating an airy and shaded pavilion that is used as a recreation and exhibition space. Here, according to Rastogi, the walls are made from a heat-absorbing material that creates a "thermal bank" -- so the warmth is slowly released at night when the temperature drops.
Centuries ago, latticed screens or "jaali" filtered direct sunlight into the palaces. The effect was decorative and helped reduce the heat. Likewise at The Pearl Academy, a latticed concrete screen runs the length of the building and provides a cooling outer skin.
"We've been able to demonstrate that good green building is not only cheaper to run; it's not only more comfortable to live in -- it's also cheaper to build," says Rastogi.
The success of the academy's eco-design has had an impact. Regulations -- based on these passive cooling techniques -- were introduced last year for all new Indian government buildings.
PHOTO: The Pearl Academy of fashion, Jaipur  Inhabitat site



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Sticky rice mortar buildings in China
How is it that structures built 1,500 years ago in China have survived multiple earthquakes while newer buildings have been utterly destroyed, time and time again? The secret is a super-strong mortar made from sticky rice. Scientists have discovered that construction workers in ancient China mixed sticky rice soup with slaked lime, which is limestone that has been heated to a high temperature and then exposed to water. The combination of these two substances is nearly indestructible, and buildings made with it have even resisted demolition by modern construction equipment like bulldozers.


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Barb, so interesting how they use rice in China.  I had also seen something on TV recently about the structures in Japan that are built with the shock obsorbers.  That was truly amazing!.
(The following is additional info from Barb's link above)

Japan's earthquake-proof structures
Even the strongest materials crumble when exposed to the shocks of a powerful earthquake. That's why buildings in earthquake zones should be engineered to sway slightly to alleviate the shock. The Japan earthquake of March 2011 could have been far more destructive than it was if it weren't for the nation's stringent building codes and advanced structural engineering. A deep foundation and massive shock absorbers prevent the energy produced by an earthquake from tearing the building apart. See a video of a Tokyo skyscraper swaying during the earthquake on YouTube.
Photo: chrisdouglas123/Shutterstock; joebaz/Flickr; matt-lucht/Flickr


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