Building Climatology: Smart Home Design and Temperature Control

By following certain home design principles, you can save energy and create a comfortable interior home temperature.

| January/February 1971

Building Climatology

Regardless of the climate outside, learn to keep your dwelling at a consistent, comfortable indoor temperature.


A few years ago Professor Harold Clark of Columbia University completed an environment study which included visits to over 40 countries. Upon his return he told university students that he found hardly one instance of a private dwelling designed to suit its environmental climate. He deplored the fact that practically all modern dwellings throughout the world are patterned after the box-like European houses which fit the cold European climate. If Professor Clark could have conducted his environment study a few centuries ago, however, I am sure that his concluding observations would have been more favorable. For the indigenous and often primitive architectural forms of that time had become adjusted to local climate through a long process of trial and error.

Architecture these days ignores environment. Witness the growth of the world's cities, which violate natural principles of summer cooling. Contrast the cool, shady meadow found in nature with the exposed acres of urban pavement, concrete buildings, and reflecting roof-tops. Compatibility of the building to its environment is currently neglected as modern designers devote a disproportionate amount of attention to appearance and fashion — which, of course, boost the sale value of the package.

Corrected Effective Temperature

Owing to the extensive use made of climatic averages in describing regional climate conditions, there is a widespread tendency to regard climate as uniform in respect to each latitude and each season. In dealing with actual climate, however, and especially in relation to building design, nothing could be farther from the truth. The old health-food adage, "a carrot is not a carrot" (comparatively, in food-value content), holds true in the meteorological field as well. That is, "temperature is not temperature"; human reactions to temperature depend upon the ability of the body to lose heat to the surroundings by convection to the air, by radiation to the surrounding surfaces and by evaporation of moisture from the skin. Body reactions therefore depend not only on the temperature of the air but also on its humidity and rate of movement as well as the mean (or average) radiant temperature of the surrounding surfaces.

It is utter nonsense to talk of a "72-degree Design Temperature." A dry bulb of 72 degrees Fahrenheit temperature at 90 percent relative humidity with a 10-foot-per-minute air movement will convey the same effective temperature as a 100-degree bulb at a 10 percent humidity and a 100-foot-per-minute air movement. In both instances, the combination of meteorological factors will produce an effective temperature of 80 degrees in a room where the walls, floor, and ceiling are at the same temperature as the air. When the surrounding surfaces are not at air temperature, an altogether different temperature index is employed to measure the actual meteorological conditions. This "adjusted" index is called the Corrected Effective Temperature (C.E.T.).

Three Basic Principles of Building Climatology

The three basic climate relationships should accordingly be kept in mind. This will prove most helpful in cooling or heating the owner-designed, owner-built home. Here they are:

1) Temperature is related to effective humidity. As temperature rises, relative humidity drops. When high temperatures combine with high humidity, the body has difficulty in perspiring and acute discomfort is experienced.

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