Not So Cool

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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.




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