Concepts for Low-tech Passive Cooling

Requested Research

  • Main request for architects: Design strategies and spatial designs of low-cost & low-tech passive cooling concepts. Solutions must be applicable in earthquake prone areas.
  • Main request for structural engineers: Sets of parameters and rules of thumb for earthquake resistant construction of passive cooling elements, for instance, wind towers or earth cooling tunnels.
  • Literature overview and survey of all types of passive cooling concepts that are used worldwide; traditionally and in modern architecture. Including a literature research on the seismic behaviour of passive cooling provisions, if any.
  • Assessment of the available information, verifying the existing knowledge and complementing the missing knowledge. Of interest is the effectiveness of the solution, the pros and cons, and a comparison of the costs per system.

Status of Research

Open for students and professionals of Architecture and Building Science, as well as for the faculties of Structural Engineering and (Geotechnical) Earthquake Engineering. Both disciplines need to work together in order to make useful and realistic designs that can withstand earthquakes. Send us an email to request the full assignment sheet via this link.

Background: Passive Cooling

Passive cooling is a building design approach that focuses on heat gain control and heat dissipation, in order to improve the indoor thermal comfort of a building. Two approaches are used: either by preventing heat from entering the interior (heat gain prevention) or by removing heat from the building (heat dissipation and natural cooling). The aim is to achieve this with minimum to zero energy consumption.

Techniques that are used to prevent the heat gain entering the building, include site configuration, building form and layout, shading devices and double roofs.

One way of heat dissipation is to include the use of thermal mass as a heat sink. The thermal mass will absorb and store heat during daytime hours and return it to space at a later time, sometimes combined with night ventilation.

Another such technique is natural cooling, which utilizes on-site heat sinks such as the upper atmosphere (night sky), outdoor breezes, and the (lower) earth temperature. Natural cooling can be separated into four different categories: cooling and ventilation, radiative cooling, evaporative cooling, and earth coupling.

Background: Low-Tech & Low-Cost Passive Cooling

We are interested in finding with low-tech and low-cost solutions that adapt to certain local contextual factors.

In some cases, we can make use of the local breeze and we must focus on orientation and catching the wind. At other places, we can make use of the landscape, or add vegetation and water bodies to guide the process. Perhaps we must include tunnels, shafts, mass walls and openings at strategic places. Or we add measures to block the sun such as a double roof, which may be effective but also more expensive at the same time.

Added to all this, we must be certain that the structural safety of the structure as a whole is ensured. It must be possible to build the provisions in earthquake or hurricane-prone areas.