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Sustainable Design
 
Use of courtyards for climate control
I would like to know how a courtyard helps in maintaining lower temperatures inside a building in a hot and dry climate. Whatare the other effective methods for doing so?
Durva Mayee
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Use of courtyards for climate control
Durva,

Try reading the books by architect Hassan Fathy of Egypt.

Courtyards usually give open-air shade which is cooling in itself. Depending upon how high the surrounding buildings are, courtyards may have several levels of arcades/colonnades, which again provide open-air shade.

Light wooden lattices or mashrabiyya (enclosed balconies) are used to screen windows and interior from the sun and outside view.

If I recall correctly, one traditional system of cooling used in Egypt is to put a large earthenware jar of water next to open vents in the walls. Water seeps through to the outside surface of the jar. Air flows over it and evaporates the water to cool and moisten the air. This then works as a low-tech air-conditioning system. :)
Frank John Snelling
Use of courtyards for climate control
As far as my knowledge goes, the courtyard system works on the basic laws of prevailing wind directions. For that simple reason, the openings that we make, the dimensions of the courtyards, etc., play a significant role.

To make it more clear, take the examples of courtyard houses in Kerala, where houses are oriented in a direction to utilize the movement of southwest winds. Actually what happens inside a courtyard is that
the hot air starts to rise up owing to the stack effect through the enclosed volume (that is why the dimensions of courtyards are so important - if it gets too big, as in cases of some of the colonial buildings in India, the courtyard won't function properly), and the hot air will be cooled by the upper layer of moisture-carrying winds or any moisture source, and thus the cold air comes down.

So the basic principle while designing a courtyard is to know the basic laws of air flow, like the stack effect, the funnel effect, the direction of the prevailing winds, etc.
Abhishek Sanker
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