Not So Cool
I've written here about air conditioning before, and when the
temperature on the coast of Maine neared 90 degrees a couple of days ago
I started thinking about it again. Not about air conditioning our
house--we stay comfortable here most of the summer without even running
fans--but about the environmental and social effects of air
conditioning, and the issues they raise for builders and architects. As
if on cue, along comes a book on that very subject
and an informative radio
interview with the author.
It's hard to miss the irony of
burning coal, which heats up the planet, in order to run air
conditioners so that we can cope with the heat. Far be it from me to ask
Southerners to the to go cold turkey, as it were, but there are
clearly steps we can take to use less a/c while maintaining and even
improving our quality of life. Many of them involve improving the way we
build. Shading, natural ventilation, plantings that lower the ambient
temperature around the building, and earth-sheltered construction are as
effective today as they were before electric cooling became available.
We may not be able to kick a/c altogether, but building to minimize
cooling load will help reduce our use of it. --B.D.S.