Traditional Architectural Design Features that Beat the Heat

With 2023 to be the hottest year on record, find out how can architects and designers create safer designs that will withstand hotter climate.
AUSTIN, Texas - Sept. 21, 2023 - PRLog -- 2023 Is The Hottest Year On Record

We don't have to tell you it's been hot.

July's heat was extreme, beating all heat records recorded since 1850, and 2023, as a whole, is on track to be the hottest year ever.

It's also been a year of weather-related disasters, with unprecedented flooding events in Vermont and other states and the tragic loss of life due to fatal fires wiping out communities in Hawai'i, Greece, British Columbia, and Washington state.

Along with the prolonged heat comes the risk of power outages and potentially lethal heat-related conditions, such as heat stroke.

The question for architects and designers is how should we respond.

How can we meet these mounting challenges by creating new designs for the built environment that provide safer, more resilient shelters capable of withstanding a hotter, more active climate?

Inspiration From The Past: Historic Vernacular Designs That Beat The Heat

Seeking inspiration for some cool building design thinking, we remembered a book in our library – Cool Homes in Hot Places by Suzanne Trocmé with photos by Andrew Wood.

Published in 2006, this book features a series of high-end residential architecture case studies that consider the effect of hot climates on suitable terrain, materials, color, and furnishings choices.

What struck us in re-reading the book is how many of the approaches for responding to warm climates are inspired by traditional – if not ancient – design features, which we thought would be interesting to explore further in this article because they are not only applicable to high-end residential construction, but also for school, office, healthcare, laboratory, and industrial facilities as well.

Ancient Architectural Features That Keep Building Interiors Cooler

Passive cooling may have become a current buzzword in the A&D community, but in many ancient Middle Eastern communities, the tradition of keeping cool in hot climates is thousands of years old.

Let's look at some of the passive cooling features that have been in use for millennia in these regions.
  • Bâgdir (Windcatcher) Cooling System

The first is a tall chimney design with vertical slats, known as Bâgdir, which roughly translates as 'windcatcher' in English.

The city most associated with these passive cooling towers is the historic city of Yazd in Iran, which has very hot and dry summer seasons. The tall chimneys draw the hot air upward, and prevailing winds sweep it away, keeping the building below cool – without fans or electricity.
  • Ventilated Domes That Draw Heat Up And Out


Julia Solodovnikova
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