Sunday, July 05, 2015

"Why are we so reliant on air conditioning?"

Our house is 115 years old, and used to have some of the design features explained herein, especially the windows. At some point the vinyl went on, and cornices and shutters disappeared.

The author's conclusion is not radical. He acknowledges the inevitability of AC in a time of overall warming, notes a few modern design trends that can help, and advocates a "balance between the old and the new."

It's sensible. However, you have to admire the acumen of the builders and designers of old.

Why are we so reliant on air conditioning? (It's not just climate change, it's bad design), by Lloyd Alter (Mother Nature Network)

A hundred years ago, a house in Florida looked different than a house in New England. The northern house might be boxy, have relatively small windows, almost always two stories with low ceilings, and a big fireplace in the middle.

In Florida, the house might have high ceilings, tall double-hung windows, and deep porches. Trees would be planted around the house to block the sun.

Today, houses pretty much look the same wherever you go in North America, and one thing made this possible: central air conditioning. Now, the United States uses more energy for air conditioning than 1 billion people in Africa use for everything.

We have reaped huge benefits from air conditioning, made vast areas of the United States habitable and comfortable. But as professor Cameron Tonkinwise of Carnegie Mellon School of Design has noted, “The air conditioner allows architects to be lazy. We don't have to think about making a building work, because you can just buy a box.” And we have forgotten how to make a building work.

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