Wed 18 Apr 2012
This is an old piece but it is still as true today as it was then. Air conditioning and by that I mean cooling air when it is hot is very expensive both financially and with regards to energy consumption.
Buildings Without Air Conditioners: The Latest in Energy Efficiency
Air conditioners consume an inordinate amount of power in the U.S. and they aren’t very efficiently used. To save energy, some say leave them out.
Michael Kanellos: December 22, 2008
Sometimes the most efficient air conditioning system is not having one at all.
To curb energy consumption, architects with projects in temperate cities – Seattle, Portland, San Francisco – have started to design buildings without mechanical air conditioners. These buildings will have heaters in all likelihood, but not air conditioning (see Can Greentech Make Housing Cheaper and Green Buildings No Subsidies Needed).
“There are only five days a year you need cooling in Seattle,” said Amanda Sturgeon, an architect and senior associate at the firm Perkins + Will, who recently designed a building without a mechanical conditioner.
In some cases, architects are putting in air-side economizers, i.e., computer-controlled windows that open to let in cooling breezes (see The Solar Window). The General Services Administration building in San Francisco uses openable windows on 12 of its 18 floors that let in cool breezes at night that, ideally, keep the offices cool in the daytime. There is no mechanical cooling in the open office areas.
This shift comes courtesy of two trends. One, building developers and contractors have latched onto green buildings as an economic opportunity. Designing a building to LEED Silver or Gold standards – the environmental building standards promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council – only adds around 2 percent to the overall cost or less, according to various contractors, architects and researchers. Designing to the LEED Platinum standard can add only 6 percent if carefully planned. The trick, say Sturgeon and others, is to exploit as many passive, design-centric techniques for scoring LEED points before moving on to the potentially more expensive, equipment-centric ones like biomass boilers or new types of lighting systems.
Go here and read. More tomorrow.