Ancient Chinese Design Features Enhance Cooling and Sustainability in Modern Buildings
China is blending the traditional with the modern in its architectural landscape by incorporating ancient design features called “skywells” into contemporary buildings. Skywells, which are courtyards situated in the heart of a structure, feature stone walls, classic beam and bracket eaves, and a central basin to collect rainwater. These design elements not only infuse buildings with aesthetic beauty but also provide natural cooling solutions and a pleasant space for various activities.
One of the key benefits of skywells is their ability to regulate temperature. When wind sweeps across the roof of a skywell house, it funnels cooler air into the interior, displacing warmer air. Moreover, the presence of openings such as skylights, chimneys, or smokestacks creates circulation within the building. Warm air rises and pulls air from other rooms, promoting effective ventilation.
To further enhance the cooling effect, traditional Chinese designs often integrate a basin of water in the skywell. As the water evaporates, it cools the surrounding air, bringing down interior temperatures by as much as 9.5°F (4.3°C). These principles, which have been employed for centuries to naturally cool homes, are gaining renewed interest in China due to government initiatives promoting greener buildings.
The revival of skywells and other traditional architectural principles not only reduces reliance on artificial lighting, air conditioning, and water supply but also contributes to sustainability efforts. By embracing these ancient design features, buildings can become more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Moreover, skywells offer more than just practical benefits. They provide a serene and inviting space for various activities, such as enjoying meals or spending quality time with family. This blend of functionality and aesthetics is a significant factor behind the growing popularity of skywells.
The skywell design principle is not limited to residential homes. It is now being utilized in other types of buildings as well, exemplified by the National Heavy Vehicle Engineering Technology Research Centre in Jinan. This diversity in application demonstrates the versatility of ancient design features in modern architecture.
Ultimately, the incorporation of skywells and other vernacular architectural designs reflects a broader shift in mindset. It signifies a growing appreciation for the wisdom and sustainability of the past, as well as a desire to adapt these principles for a greener future. As lifestyles evolve and awareness of sustainable practices increases, the utilization of traditional design features like skywells is set to become even more prevalent in China’s architectural landscape.