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Today you can make your home a heated oasis in the artic, or with the services of AIRzona Heating and Cooling Comfort Solutions, a haven from the blistering heat of summer in the Colorado River Valley, with the mere touch of a button. Obviously this wasn’t always the case. But our ancestors were ingenious and had ways of beating the heat in the summer, and staying warm in the winter.

As an example the Hohokam and other native people that lived in the desert southwest often built water trenches beneath their dwellings and used the evaporative cooling of the water to create a haven from the heat. The Anasazi built complex villages in wind hollowed cliff faces. This made homes easier to keep warm in the winter and they were shaded in the summer.

The Navajo Indians cut trenches in the ground that led to the floor in the base of their hogans, and then covered them with hides and soil. Toward the ceiling facing downwind of prevailing breezes, they cut vents. This created a natural draft that drew cooler air from the ground into the structure. Water was sometimes poured into the trench to enhance the cooling effect with evaporation that also enhanced the natural humidity of the desert. Burning charcoal in the trench covered with earth was used to assist with heating the home in winter.

A few decades ago folk in the southwest combined the old concept of evaporative cooling with the electric fan. It was an improved version of something the ancient Egyptians used to be the heat of the deserts that embraced the Nile River. They wove mats of reeds that were soaked in water and hung over window and door openings. The wealthy enhanced the affect by having slaves wave fans to blow air across the wet mats.

It was the ancient Greeks developed the idea of a hypocaust system to heat or cool a home. It is the same principle that makes the HVAC system function. The Romans perfected the concept by using mosaic tiled stone floors supported by columns with the space underneath that transported heated air to warm the space in the winter, or air cooled by water in the months of summer.

As we examine modern designs for buildings and for community planning it almost seems like we have come full circle. As example consider this design; an in ground structure with the exposed south or north facing wall being made of glass and white masonry. The vented roof serves as garden. If this sounds like a futuristic design it might comes as surprise to learn this was a formula for construction by ancient Greek architects.

One can’t help but look toward the future with eager anticipation. Imagine the possibilities of linking ancient design techniques with modern technologies. Imagine a future where the past and present blend seamlessly in urban planning. Meanwhile just be thankful that your home can be transformed into an oasis with the touch of a button.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America


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