Natural Air-conditioning


 “Architecture will, therefore, become more informed by the wind, by the sun, by the earth, by the water and so on. This does not mean that we will not use technology. On the contrary, we will use technology even more because technology is the way to optimize and minimize the use of natural resources”(Richard Rogers). 

Who says Richard Rogers thinks of Centre Georges Pompidou that he and Renzo Piano designed in 1977 which is an impressive architectural and technological tour de force, as well as its air-conditioning system? His statement above, many years later, is indicative of the direction in which architecture is moving; a direction in which technology is used to support architecture.

However, there is a gap between technology and architecture and the research. “Earth, Wind & Fire – Natural Air Conditioning” is a quest for the knowledge and science necessary to bridge this gap.

I am a technologist, “someone who tries to discover a new method to provide in an urgent need by improving his current best practice and using material accessible to him.[1]

The best practice in my profession as a designer of HVAC systems was based on known mechanical systems and techniques. The new method makes use of natural resources, as so aptly expressed in the above quote by Richard Rogers. The urgent need includes, on the one hand, saving energy and the necessity of zero energy buildings in the near future. On the other hand, it includes the necessary annihilation of the dichotomy between architecture and technology, this dichotomy being also partly responsible for high failure costs. 

The strategic set-up of the research is focused on the development of Climate Responsive Architecture in which climate design, building physics, and HVAC systems are connected to an architectural assignment. A building, moreover, is also designed as a “climate machine“, a machine which is activated by gravity and the ambient energy of earth mass, the wind, and the sun, metaphorically referred to as Earth, Wind & Fire.

This strategy offers the architect a major role in designing both the indoor environment and the energy efficiency of buildings. By executing the climate provisions as elements of architectural expression, climate technology is no longer subordinate to architecture but part of architecture itself. The design of a building as a climate machine has become the task of the architect who is, therefore, also partly responsible for the indoor climate and energy management. 

The role of the HVAC engineer in this integrated design concept is not less important. He should, however, draw on the additional knowledge repertoire which has been developed in the research Earth, Wind & Fire, the main results of which are presented in this thesis. 

This does not signify that the HVAC engineer performs “HVAC architecture” as some have advocated[2].“The concept, the basic design, has to be conceived by the architect first, then there is room for other disciplines[3]


[1] James, K. Feibleman in “Importance of Technology”. Nature  January 1966

[2] Emile Quanjel en Wim Zeiler in “The basis for HVAC architecture – Integrated Design.” TVVL Magazine 11/2002 (in Dutch).

[3] Jouke Post in “The soul of the concept”. TVVL Magazine 11/2002 (in Dutch).