CHENNAI: Modifying one’s lifestyle according to the seasons and being aware of the orientation of the house can help make one more at ease with the climate. The sun moves each day from east to west through the south. Hence the north-facing parts are the coolest, while the west and south facing sides are the hottest. In traditional buildings, there were often ‘winter sections’ and ‘summer sections’ based on building orientation. Similarly, the house functions can be reoriented in the summer months so that the coolest parts can be made multi-functional and used for more activities and rooms with west and south facing walls can be avoided, rather than using the AC in the hot rooms. Verandahs and balconies, where there is sea breeze, can be used as extended living spaces and windows can be opened for cross ventilation.
Windows bring in natural light and ventilation, but also heat – to cut down the latter, shading devices can help. Windows and doors that do not have sunshades will bring in direct sunlight, and these windows can be protected with wide sunshades and awnings that will cut off the sun’s rays
Lattice screens & louvers
Large windows can be protected with lattice screens or perforated sheets that offer shade and ensure privacy, while still bringing in light and ventilation. Latticed windows were common in traditional Islamic architecture. Adjustable louvers on glass windows also fulfill a similar function, where the angle can be adjusted to bring in the wind.
Used more commonly in hot-and-dry climates like Rajasthan, the simplest desert cooler has a water storage tank with pads made of wood shavings or vettiver, which is kept moist using a pump. A fan mounted in front of the cooler draws the air in, and evaporation cools the air. These have been adapted into modern electronic forms as well, and consume lesser power than ACs
Vettiver (khus khus) or bamboo blinds
Traditionally, water used to be sprinkled on bamboo, vettiver or khus-khus mats for natural air conditioning. The method can also be used in today’s houses, with blinds made of vettiver or bamboo on the windows
Simple methods like placing a bowl full of ice water in front of a table fan, using cold water bottles to cool your bedsheet and pillow could ease the summer heat. Incandescent lights also emit heat and thus make the surroundings warmer, LED lights could cut down this heat