Why Air Conditioning will just be a blip in history

According to all reports, climactic temperatures are on the up. So, how best to keep ours down? Air conditioning has been the favoured solution for years, but is it really the most satisfactory? It’s a drain on the household budget, it’ll leave the air drier than the jokes in an Oscar Wilde play, and it’ll make you the natural enemy of asthmatics, athletes and singers. What’s more, despite keeping things cool at home, air conditioning contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases.

Architects, designers, engineers and scientists the world over are busy in their labs and studios developing more sustainable and attractive methods for making homes and workspaces livable. In Italy, recycled plastic is being turned into insulation; in Germany, maximum airtightness is minimising temperature fluctuations; in the United States, one man has combined heating and cooling his place with building gigantic ice sculptures.



Hold onto your soft drink bottles; you’ll need 40,000 of the plastic kind to model your home on this zero energy beauty, titled Tvzeb. Designed and developed by Traverso-Vighy Architecture in conjunction with the University of Padua’s Department of Technical Physics, it’s hiding in the woods in north-eastern Italy, just a few kilometres outside the World Heritage listed city of Vicenza. The bottles were transformed into a 90mm layer of insulating polyester fibre, which combines with a heat minimising structural design and reflective glass to keep the elements at bay.




This is model and activist Summer Rayne Oakes’ Brooklyn apartment. She keeps temperatures at an equilibrium by living in a vertical garden, with 220 plants filling her kitchen, living room and bedroom. Keeping them alive doesn’t require any sacrifice of her hectic eco-awareness promoting schedule. An automated subirrigation system does the job.



Minnesota artist Roger Hanson builds gigantic ice sculptures and keeps his home comfy using geothermal heat, which takes advantage of the Earth’s stable temperatures. For cooling, a pump sends water underground, where warmth is removed; for heating, the opposite occurs — water is pumped up from the hot surface layer of the Earth’s crust.



Australian couple Luke and Debbie Everingham have designed and built a rotating house. Located on the Nowendoc River in the Manning Valley, it’s powered by an engine that’s only slightly bigger than one you’d find in a washing machine. Access to both sun and shade is optimised and construction costs are on par with those of building a regular home.



The troglodytes had it figured out all those thousands of years ago. American couple Curt and Deborah Sleeper built this house into a sandstone cave in Festus, Missouri. Before their purchase of the space, it functioned as a roller-skating rink and concert venue, where the likes of Tina Turner and Bob Seger made appearances. The need for air conditioning is eliminated via a blend of natural insulation, thoughtful design and geothermal heat.



Artists Beth Kraminstein and Roy Levy wanted to live and work in their place without depending on air conditioning. So the environmentally conscious architects at Jersey Devil conjured this one up for them. Cross-ventilation is achieved through three garage doors and seventy carefully positioned windows. A new wing has been built to sit in the treetops, maximising the cooling effect of ocean breezes, while insulation is achieved through a blend of concrete, corrugated steel and Galvalume steel.



No, it’s not a scene from The Lord of the Ringsit’s a real-life, tall person’s home, to be found in Vals, Switzerland. Certainly inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary world, this Hobbit Hole is the product of the combined efforts of Christian Muller Architects and SeARCH. Temperatures are kept at a civilised level by virtue of its being underground, but the oval design allows plenty of sunlight to shine through and affords mountain views.


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