Here is the evidence of long standing solutions to everyday needs and problems
We can use very earth friendly ways to do the same jobs as modern tecbnology
When it comes to earth friendly ideas, our ancestors from around the world had some pretty savvy ideas that we can still use that are low impact, non polluting, economically viable and can keep up with the best of technological answers to the same problems. We pride ourselves with the facts that we have solved age old problems with our technological prowess. But in the offing, we have created a host of spin-off problems. We look around and wonder if we could do the same things we have gotten so used to by means that are not so damaging to the environment. There are answers and some of them are surprisingly ancient and efficient as well as being low impact on the planet. Many ideas were developed in isolation for very specific regions and challenges. What is proposed here is to use all of them in combination to create the ideal low impact home or city. There will still be technology, but it will be far less than there is in use now and it will be augmented largely by old, tried, tested and true ways of doing the same things we take for granted and that use technological intense ways we use now.
Evaporation air conditioning, cooling and refrigeration
Iranian villages have been using a cooling technique for centuries long before the advent of the air conditioner and refrigerator. Much of Iran is semi arid and extremely hot in the summer, and yet the homes are well cooled in the mid day summer sun with no visible technology. By contrast, nights are often cold. How is this done? Some genius in the past realized that sinking deep shafts into the cool earth below was a source for cooling air. The trick is to exploit the natural tendency for hot air to rise, so the chimney effect is used to force outside hot air to go down a deep shaft into the cool interior of the earth that has not been heated and retains the cold of the night and colder seasons. The air is chilled and then drawn up by use of a chimney that exploits the heat of the sun to cause upward air flow and pulling cooled air out of the underground shafts. Alternately, in windy regions, a simple device incorporated into architecture is the use of a “wind catcher”. The wind catcher uses the wind as a driver for the same kind of system. The result is that the homes baking on the outside by the sun, are remarkably cool and air conditioned on the inside. The baking chimneys provide the heat differential to get the air flow going on the hottest part of the day. As the sun goes down, the effect slows and stops and then passive heating takes over for the night. The result is a cool house in the heat of the day and a warm one in the chill of the night all without any consumption of power or burning of wood outside of cooking. This idea works best in regions with plenty of summer sun, which is why many Iranian villages use it to this day. Regions of little sun and lots of cold require a different strategy, such as the use of geothermal energy.
Another variation on the theme that is an excellent idea for passive refrigeration exploits the evaporation of water to cause cooling in a containment setting. Often these passive refrigerators are made of porous clay that allows water inside to weep slowly to the outside where the sun is partly responsible for evaporation. Wind also helps. The passive refrigerator is a double walled system where an inner dry storage chamber holds food or liquid that one wants to keep cool for preservation and later use. The outer part of a double walled device acts as the chiller. One such device used in the third world is called a Zee pot and uses wet sand between two bisque earthenware pots. As evaporation requires heat, some of it is taken out of the interior which chills as a result. A simple lid that may also be double walled for insulating purposes, helps the interior stay cool. The whole device can be made locally by a potter and assembled to create an entire passive water and air cooled refrigerator. Though some claim that with the right construction, ice can even be manufactured, for the most part this is untrue and largely unverified.
Building underground for warmth in winter and cool in summer
Many ancient people knew that the earth can retain heat or cold for prolonged periods and chose an architecture that was blended into the earth itself. If you live in a home that has a basement, you may already be aware of this effect, that is, the cool of the basement on the hottest day and the relative warmth on those freezing winter days. Vikings chose to exploit this principle in places like Greenland when the climate was milder. Remnants of such homes are also found in Newfoundland Canada. During the summer, the earth slowly accumulates heat and holds it. The reverse is true in the winter going into summer. Thus, by building mostly underground and using something like a living sod roof, you can moderate the temperature of your home considerably with minimum consumption of fuel. In geothermal regions, the winter heating can come from hot springs that emerge naturally from the earth. Some of the Coast Salish First Nations did just this in their long houses for a long time. By some accounts, this has been going on for ten thousand years with zero impact on the environment. We could do this today instead of continually adding fossil fuel generated greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. Iceland uses geothermal energy both to generate electricity and to warm buildings.
Cistern water storage for semi arid and arid regions
Modern cities and villages in the developed world have tremendous rain run off and problems of disposing of all the storm water and yet almost everyone of them are crying the blues about water shortages and some impose rationing. The solution appears to be right on their doorstep with some adjustments to thinking being all that is required to solve both problems in a single stroke. We read about cisterns in the Bible in reference to Jerusalem and other regions where Jesus lived and preached. Almost no one in a modern setting knows what a cistern is. Put simply, a cistern is a large watertight underground water storage facility that holds copious amounts of water that is delivered during the rainy season and holds it for use over the full extent of the dry season for daily use. Everything else falls into place if we redesign our storm sewers not to just dump the storm water, but to collect it for use in lean times when there are no storms for months on end. This would mean the incorporation of massive underground and watertight caverns for the storage of storm water run off. This could then be tapped into during times when the weather is dry and people would not be forced to ration on hot thirsty days.
You may already have a cistern without even realizing it. Take a look at the swimming pool in the back yard if you should be someone who has a swimming pool. There it is; an already constructed cistern! So then, what do you need to do to make it an actual water storage facility. During the off season, consider a pool cover to cut down on evaporation. This is really a large, thick plastic sheeting that can be drawn over the entire pool to cut down on loss and to keep the water at the ready in case it is needed. It will also cut down on contamination from the outside. During the swimming period, the pool likely has a lot of chlorine in it. After the season is over, the chlorine can be allowed to evaporate off and then the pool covered to cut losses. You never know, that vast amount of water could come in useful as a personal resource.
Garden mulching to conserve water and stop weeds
Most gardens require a large amount of water. The hotter and drier the conditions, the more this is true. But there is a way to augment and lessen the loses to evaporation. Using a natural technique that occurs in the wild in many regions, we can emulate nature to keep the soil cool and moist. That technique is the use of ground cover like loose straw and leaves from the previous fall. These act as a type of shade and prevent the baking sun from boiling off and leaching away lower levels of ground moisture. This natural material which is freely available in most circumstances, can be carefully arranged around young or more mature food and flower crops on top of the soil. As a bonus, this same material prevents newly sprouted weeds from getting a foothold in the garden. Some people chose to use bark mulch or even plastic to this end, but the best stuff in the world is natural straw and/or leaves.
Raised bed gardening for heat retention with biomass
Raised bed gardens have a number of positive attributes. They allow for easier harvesting when the crops are ready, especially for root crops. They allow you to section the garden so that everything is easy to reach without the risk of trampling on some of you crops. The raised plants have a better chance of surviving a late or early frost as cold air will sink to the walkways between the raised beds. If you have added biomass, natural processes therein will keep the soil warm and this will rise to keep frost at bay. Some birds actually gather biomass together to keep unhatched eggs warm to the point of hatching. Incorporating biomass in the raised bed garden will keep young or maturing plants warm in the same manner. Raised bed gardening has been used for thousands of years by many peoples.
Passive heat collection and storage
Everyone knows that a dark surface will get much hotter and more quickly than a white or reflective surface on a sunny day. There is s simple experiment you can do by way of taking temperature readings on the hood or roof of a black car versus a white car. The experiment will demonstrate the truth of the leading statement. This reality can be used with a heat exchanger where a passive collector can give up heat to water or some other fluid and piped to where the heat is needed. A dark surfaced material can be embedded with tubing to pass a fluid through to collect the heat. This is the basic idea behind a passive solar heat collector. It can be designed in such a way that you don't even need and electric pump as long as you know that heat rises. These can be mounted facing the sun on the ground floor level so that all parts of the home can be heated. You may wish to incorporate a storage tank to collect the heat by day for night use. A passive solar heater can also be used for food drying for preservation
If you are lucky enough to live in a geothermal region, you might only have to sink a shaft down to where it is hot to tap the heat using a passive water recycling system. Again, a heat storage tank can be used for various purposes such as for hot water use.
Passive heating and cooling as well as using the earth
Make a zeer pot for passive refrigeration
Time to reconsider the yurt in all this
- Alternative Homes the Yurt
In this day and age of going green and alternative ideas, people are looking into new ideas as far as homes are concerned. People are looking beyond wood, cement brick and stone to alternative materials and...
RussellLHuey on September 03, 2011:
Great pictures and awesome hub!