It was in the Summer and Cairo was boiling hot. But interestingly the venue was pretty cool. There was two factors: The mosques shadowed each other in a way that you don't get exposed in the sun. Another factor, there was a cool air flow coming from somewhere(?). My guess would be that the two buildings where engineered to both protect from the sun and generate the airflow.
You can sit in the venue all day long and not be annoyed with the hot weather. The buildings themselves where pretty cool inside.
I think the question is: Why are we so inefficient today? It's not about looks either: We are building even uglier buildings. The building I'm living in right now is buzzing with air-conditioning units. It's wasteful and it's also an inferior solution (headaches, dry air, only inside is cool, etc...)
I'd guess because of misguided "separation of concerns" and the ability to externalize the inefficiencies: You can either carefully analyze the surrounding climate and the usage patterns of your building, then hire architects who are able to take those into account and are willing to work with the imposed constraints - or you can have your architects go wild and imagine whatever crazy shape you want and treat climate control as an afterthought: After all, you can just slap on some air-conditioning and be done.
Of course air-conditioning will cause numerous problems: Energy usage, air pollution, additional heating of the outside environment, etc - however as long as energy is cheap, those are not the problems of the owners of the building.
Passive cooling techniques are quite advanced in middle eastern tradition of architecture.
A qanat or kariz is a gently sloping underground channel to transport water from an aquifer or water well to surface for irrigation and drinking, acting as an underground aqueduct.
Qanats used in conjunction with a wind tower can provide cooling as well as a water supply.
We tend to one of a few extremes: a few buildings (often for show) are ultra-green and usually stuffy, others are meticulously space-optimized to maximize residency, and still others are vehemently individualist, a project (usually a house) built on a plot of land as though it were the only plot of land in the Universe. Projects in the last two categories tend to sacrifice energy efficiency because it is too expensive, in the one case because it reduces units per square inch and in the other because owner-built SFH usually optimize for a very idiosyncratic comfort/price ratio.
In the old days, construction was often managed by the army (viz. nobility), and designed at a town scale. Today, as part of a reaction to the crushing inhumanity of feudalism, we silo off our construction projects to preserve our individuality, or we "build by any means necessary" to make optimal use of what little space we haven't yet wasted. A compromise might eventually be reached.
In particular, a lot of old-school heat management relies on having some parts of a building extend high up in to the sky or down into the ground. That sort of construction is heavily regulated these days, by height zoning -- which tends to impose the same limit for a whole parcel, eradicating towers, chimneys and steeples -- and by the great deal of infrastructure underground (sewers, wires, etc). Incidentally, these regulations rule out the construction of the building we're looking at now -- you'd waste the entire "top floor" on a chimney! It would just not be cost-effective relative to a design that fills the zoning envelope with usable space.
If electricity becomes more expensive, buildings with more mass and room for the air becomes cost effective again.
Even the old British era colonial buildings would remain cool in summers.
Would love to know what material and design choices cause this effect.
By opening at the top and bottom it lets hot air out, and in doing so lets cooler air in below setting up a circulation.
I just liked how an idea that must be a few hundred years old has evolved into a useful design.
Boy, if any of the builders from ancient times were around to see some of the monstrosities we've created.
They would probably be amazed at some of the structures we can create and others they would just shrug at... but the same can be said for structure of their time.
Customers and economics.
A king telling an architect to build the greatest church in the world and mass-produced materials being unavailable resulted in some of the great structures of antiquity.
Now, you have a corporation asking how a structure can look distinct while being cheap, and you get the stuff we build.
Thank god at least for LEED branding, even if it's a compromise.
I wonder if there's also a cultural explanation as to why movements like brutalism caught on. Even 50 years ago buildings in the US were a lot more elegant than they are today.
It's a pretty insular culture (less so farther back, moreso the more modern you get), so essentially everyone knows the recent and current style... and then wants their work to be different.
When someone hits something that resonates, that gets copied, becomes the new dominant style, and then the cycle repeats.
Modernism (and then brutalism) was a rejection of the florid, nature-themed, complex styles that came before. It was literally "less is more."
I'd personally say that the longer a style lasts, the more derivative hacks you get with less talent, claiming to be designing in its name.
I posted this prompted by a comment discussing the cooling property of solar panels:
What comes across is that the client was very keen to do this, is there any reason why there aren’t many other buildings like this?
Mention is made of Portcullis House, office by the Houses of Parliament. Are they expensive to design? Just unusual for architects to design?
Shouldn’t this be standard where possible?
- If it's an unusual design, using it means you're taking a big risk. If it works you save money, if it doesn't you have an uninhabitable building that may be hard or impossible to retrofit to a "normal" system.
http://www.mickpearce.com/Eastgate.html has some data, which looks remarkably good.
If you're just a development company building offices to rent, you'll include anything your prospective tenants are willing to pay for! A lot of those will simply want climate control to be as cheap as possible, so it'd boil down to whether the aircon / energy savings outweighed the extra capital costs incorporated in the rent.
Portcullis House Wikipedia entry, though doesn’t seem interested in its energy use:
The climate is similar in both cities.
Harare's average January (summer) daily mean is 21°C, London's (July) is 19°C.
The average highs are 26°C and 24°C. The high-low range, which looks to be important so the building can cool at night, is 10°C in both.
Most buildings there are also designed much more for winter. The windows seal well but often don't open that wide, and there will be a fire door making sure you can't get cross-ventilation, etc.
Moreover, if temperature is properly controlled, a working or living environment with a lot of sunlight is actually very pleasant. Most people prefer sunlight over artificial light.
I guess this combines to suppress demand for the style shown here. I recall seeing similar attempts to make skyscrapers more passively cooled. They seem popular, but are quite expensive.
Older all glass offices present as a single plane of glass, sometimes with light/dark striping.
Modern shopping centers, or residential have different looks, of course; although high density high rise residential gets fairly close to high density high rise office.
This sounds more like the architect's resume than a Wikipedia article.
Hawa Mahal in India uses venturi effect for cooling.
If there is wind, you don't even need the fans that are used in the basement of the Eastgate Centre.
Pass. Natural light (and tons of it!) are a hard requirement for anywhere I actually want to work. (Besides light and airy spaces being generally pleasant, I have mild SAD.)
In any case, I'd rather use modern air conditioning, which is stunningly efficient. It also actually produces temperatures I can live in. They don't quote actual interior temperatures (or humidities!) but I'll bet their "acceptable" is 78F+. Anything north of 70 and I am a sweaty mess. (If you're cold, put on a sweater; I can't exactly strip in the office and you wouldn't want to sit next to me anyway!)
Complaints about air conditioning are mostly a form of modern self-flagellation. If you're not suffering, you're not doing enough for Gaia. Cost/benefit calculations simply don't enter into it (if they did, someone might point out that eliminating all cooling whatsoever would not even move the needle on US energy. Consider https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/4/13/1526860... and https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=1174&t=1, from which you can see that cooling is 9% of electricity, which is perhaps 38% of total energy usage.)
For your, and HN's consideration, we are losing regional vernacular architecture because of air conditioning. One of my fav episode of 99% Invisible makes this case, that once architects outsourced the solving of thermal problem to air conditioning, they could build boxes of steel and glass anywhere. It's contrarian to Wright-ish principle of building with the land ("buildings should not be on a hill but of it"). I recall there's a part about how people would rather open a window for cooling and get moving air, instead of being inside a confined air conditioned space. The episode also visits a "baoli" of India and the modern building designed with its features.
Architects and architectural styles are much more concerned with their particular artistic vision, and status signaling within their tribe, than with whether their buildings are pleasant to live within. (See: brutalism, for the worst case, but this applies widely.)
The more practical realities force architects to abandon their pet styles and build efficient places, the better. I have to live there; they don’t.
One big benefit that the article mentions is that you get a constant supply of fresh air, vs the recycled air that is typical in air conditioned buildings.
Could there be a heath and fitness change you could make so the rest of the world wouldn’t have to suffer in cold offices? Working perpetually cold is miserable, and extra layers is only a partial solution.
Also, no matter how efficient modern air conditioning is relative to older systems, it’s still a financial expense that should be measured and minimized where possible.
I'm noting how incredibly rude your reply is; implying that there's a fitness issue causing the condition (at least in my case, there is not), and implying that GP wants to impose "their rule" on people who won't like it.
I work at home, FWIW, and my girlfriend doesn't like heat either. It's a good arrangement. You didn't get the chance to make assumptions about me, but please don't make assumptions about GP either.
An example would be Masdar City: