Clever, Cool Rainforest Office Is a Natural Wind Tunnel

When you're building an office in the Costa Rican rainforest, cooling is going to be a big concern.When that office is for a group dedicated to the environment, so is the energy used to keep temperatures down. This design offers an innovative solution: it uses physics and the heat from the sun to make the building into a natural wind tunnel, so there's always a refreshing breeze.

The design, by architecture firm Betillon/Dorval-Bory, was for a competition to create an office for FUNDECOR, a Costa Rican NGO dedicated to protecting the country's forests.

The building reproduces anabatic wind movement, the term for rising warm air. It is a two-level, narrow building that is open at each end. At the southern end, a tar covered blacktop is designed to absorb the heat of the sun, so the air there rises. This creates a sort of vacuum, drawing the cooler air through the building to take its place. Voila: a breeze.

The building's walls have no windows, so air only moves in one direction, making the office into a naturally-occurring wind tunnel. Betillon/Dorval-Bory calls it "climatic architecture." The design also includes a system for rainwater collection and solar panels on its roof. Strangely, however, there are air conditioning units included that seem to be there to cool four rooms. The architects write:

the intermediate circulation spaces are not thermally regulated, but are highly ventilated by a constant movement of air, while the programmatic cells are equipped with independent air conditioning systems.

I'm not sure why those areas would be closed off to the natural air flow, or why they would need air conditioning when the entire building is designed to avoid its necessity. But either way, I'm impressed by the ingenuity of the design in using natural principles to solve a potentially energy-draining problem.

The design was awarded honorable mention in the competition.

Clever, Cool Rainforest Office Is a Natural Wind Tunnel
A proposed office uses "climatic architecture" to cool the building by making it into a natural wind tunnel.

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