Thoughtful Architectural Design Can Cool Your Home Naturally
We lived – and sweated! – through record-breaking heat this summer in Hawaii. And that trend, unfortunately, is likely to continue. Hot days are great for the beach, but they can sure make a home unbearable, if it’s not designed for airflow efficiency. While air conditioning is one solution, no one wants higher electricity bills, much less more strain on our planet’s limited resources.
Before air conditioning became commonplace, islanders had to find ways to naturally cool homes through good design. As architects, we at WhiteSpace design so our residential clients will not need air conditioning, even if they do install the cooling systems as an option.
One of the first things we consider is how the roof will be insulated. Homeowners may not realize how important it is to keep a home’s living spaces cool.
While we all enjoy sunny island days, the reality is that roofing materials generally absorb the sun’s heat, which is then transferred into the residence itself. Roof insulation can be built into a home design or renovation project to keep heat from circulating into the rest of the home.
Another important design element in ensuring proper ventilation is incorporating open spaces into residential designs. Arranging openings on opposite or nearby walls also help to allow efficient airflow.
In 2018, WhiteSpace completed a 2,200-square-foot oceanfront North Shore residence for a local family of ocean lovers, taking full advantage of the cool air from the ocean. Upper floors tend to be naturally warmer because of heat gain through the roof. But the open floor plan and staircase allowed unobstructed airflow from the cooler lower level to the upper level.
Window Placement and Design
The North Shore home also incorporates living areas with oversized picture windows, placed on the second level of the home to take full advantage of ocean views, while double-hung and awning windows throughout the home allow in the cool tradewinds. Double-hung windows have so much versatility: They can either be opened at the top – allowing movement at a higher level to sweep out hot air generated by heat gain through the roof – or at the lower level to allow optimal cross-ventilation where the residents are living and playing.
WhiteSpace Architects recently designed a Lanikai residence that made liberal use of horizontal sill vents, a highly effective and efficient way to naturally cool a residence, even in a driving rain and even on a home’s windward side.
Pip White, WhiteSpace founder and principal, remembers sill vents in homes when he was growing up in Hawaii in the ‘50s, but believes they have been somewhat forgotten as the years have passed.
Kama‘aina homes often had wonderful design strategies to improved the daily experiences of the people who lived there. It’s what we still strive to do with our architectural designs today: designing places for people,” explains Pip.
Sill vents are now available in sleek, finished looks that can be expertly incorporated into residential design in a quiet, unobtrusive way. Not only did WhiteSpace utilize sill vents in the master bedroom of the Lanikai residence, but also was able to incorporate them into the open kitchen to help regulate air flow and help dissipate heat from cooking. Pip notes, “Unless you know they are there as part of our design, you may not even be aware of their presence.”
Sill vents may be something still under the radar, but window placement and window design are other critical elements for natural ventilation.
If you’re interested in learning how we can help you design a home that naturally cools itself, schedule an appointment at the link below.