What energy-efficient practices can I use to keep my building cool in a hot climate?


What energy-efficient practices can I use to keep my building cool in a hot climate?

Asked by Kristian Lawrence

I am designing a visitors centre for a project in Perth, Australia. During summer we can go for 2-3 weeks at a time with temperatures remaining above 35 C/95 F during the day and 24 C/75 F at night. What ideas can I incorporate into my building to keep it as cool as possible in summer without blasting air-conditioners all day? The building is a curved, east-west orientated building. The bottom floor is a single room, starting as a wide corridor to the east, narrowing in the centre and then opening up again into a reception/cafe area. There is a small second story for a small living space above the reception area. The building will be roughly 600 square meters.

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Hamid Kashani - AIA, LEED Green Associate's picture

The fact that this is a building in the design process provides you with ample opportunities to incorporate some of the basic principles of sustainable design, including passive cooling.

In addition to the obvious, such as insulation, sun orientation, daylighting, and shading, which control and reduce the cooling load, I would highly recommend investigating the possibility of passive cooling through the process of natural ventilation.

  • The idea is actually nothing new and has been utilized for hundreds of years by master builders and architects.
  • It is based on draft or chimney effect and creating an environment which utilizes systems for the building to ventilate itself by allowing cool air in and letting warm air out.

In practice, it could be as simple as providing openings at the lowest point to bring in the cooler air and letting the rising warm air to the highest points of the interior of the building through openings such as clerestory windows, to create the natural flow of air and ventilation.

  • Fortunately, we have the technology to control these openings to open and close as needed for optimum efficiency.
  • Utilizing clerestory windows with remote control provides such options while it allows for the daylighting which also reduces the air conditioning load.

For more information:

Read "We're adding a sunroom to our home. Can you suggest strategies for natural heating and cooling?" a Q&A answered by Mark Schrieber.