MODERN BUILDINGS TRAP HEAT MORE THAN OLD ONES: THERE IS A SOLUTION
As the world tries to adapt to extreme heat, old homes perform better, but new technology is on the horizon
Visitors to Santorini, or other islands and towns in Greece, or Southern Italy, often wonder why all buildings, including roofs, are white. If you enter some of these homes, you'll find they're as cool as an air-conditioned shop in the middle of the US Midwest, and yet no air conditioning is present. As reported by the New York Times and other leading news outlets this month, countries around the world are trying to adapt to extreme heat and finding that old construction is performing better than modern buildings, which seem to be made to trap heat. The principles behind traditional buildings are familiar to all of us: white exterior paint and roofs to reflect light, and thick walls to insulate the interior.
White roofs across the island of Santorini, Greece.
But these age-old solutions to extreme heat and unrelenting sun have fallen into disfavor in modern construction, where thin walls, large windows, and colorful exteriors have taken over. While we "modernized" the appearance of our buildings and made them perhaps more sleek and able to use vertical space, we have not developed the science needed to continue to apply age-old principles to our homes, to deflect sunlight and heat. So, are we to convert all our skyscrapers and modern homes back into pre-modern, one-story, white huts?
World ocean currents. Credit: GRID Arendal
Percentage of buildings that are air conditioned, according to the EIA's report on the "Future of Cooling." Graphics by Fixr, reproduced here under fair use.
As we've pointed out in previous reports, most of the world is still not air conditioned, and this is particularly true of the countries with the highest populations: India (5%), Indonesia (9%) and China (60%). Those countries make up more than one third (3.2 billion) of the world's population (7.8 billion). We don't have reliable data for the African continent (1.2 billion), where the impact of manmade climate change's extreme heat is perhaps most severe today. Perhaps even more surprising, only 10% of the buildings in the countries of the European Union have air conditioning, and the EU has almost twice the US population.
A crucial question looms large: what happens to the electrical grid when all these people decide that the extreme heat is unbearable and install an air conditioner?
Additional energy needed per person to adapt to living with extreme heat (using ACs) if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same rate. The map is based on data from 33 different climate models, as published by Rode et al. (2021) in Nature.
A new study in the leading scientific journal Nature tells us that we simply can't sustain that energy demand, and to meet it, countries will produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, making the climate crisis even worse.
The only way out is to reduce energy demand, and reduce the need for air conditioning. We can do that by adopting new, science-based solutions improving on age-old building principles. That is what our Heat Abatement Technology does. By deflecting up to 30% of the heat brought by sunlight, our nano-engineered coatings and building materials provide an easily scalable climate solution for areas that can't easily adopt air conditioning.
But even in buildings where air conditioning is already installed, our Heat Abatement Technology can relieve power grids of excess power demand due to air conditioning, saving homeowners money, while also reducing their carbon footprint.