Learning From The Past, Designing For The Future: How They Air Conditioned In India 400 Years Ago

historic buildings india water cooled image

Images from Infosys powerpoint on green energy initiatives

It is hot in Rajasthan, India. Four hundred years ago when building palaces, they installed air conditioning to beat the heat. Caroline Howe of It's Getting Hot in Here explains:

In Rajasthan, ancient kings were masters of hydrology and thermodynamics; they captured rainwater across their territory and built hundreds of kilometres of pipes, eventually piping water underneath their floors. This cool water running underneath the floors creates a massive thermal mass, which both stores this coolness, and radiates it when you're within the structures.

Ms. Howe notes, as TreeHugger often does, that "If we want to design for the future, we need to learn from the past." And it appears that some companies are doing it; Infosys, the big Indian IT company, is trying out an underfloor water cooling system at it's Pocharam campus in Hyderabad, one one of the hottest cities in India. Caroline writes:

water cooling installed photo

installing mat of cooling tubes
Infosys has divided the building perfectly in half. One half is conventionally cooled (with inefficient convection using inefficient air), and the other half using in-slab radiant cooling (piping cool water through the floors of each office). The metered measurements from this system will be launched in September, when the building becomes operational. Projections estimate that this building will use only 1/3 of the energy of a typical high-quality Infosys building!

water cooling physics image

Rohan Parikh, Head of Green Initiatives at Infosys, posted a powerpoint deck that shows some of the green ideas being implemented by the company, showing the physics behind water cooling. But the workers are not sitting in a swimming pool; the heat still has to be transferred through the air. Those 400 year old palaces also had other features not found in modern buildings, such as high ceilings and very thick walls; it will be interesting to see how the technology works in a modern building.

More at It's Getting Hot In Here

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