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Passive cooling is the counterpart of solar heating. Passive heating depends on sun.
But passive cooling can utilize several heat sinks and variety of climatic influences to create
thermal comfort in warm regions. Passive heating has been adopted only recently. But passive
cooling has a longer history.
The general principle of passive cooling is to avoid overheating which is mainly
generated by the sun. Hence it is not solar instead non-solar even anti-solar.
However because passive heating and cooling depend on heat flow by natural means
(conduction, convection, radiation) they share many similar principles.
The comfort strategies in overheated climates are
Avoid heat gains due to solar radiation by shading and reflective strategies.
Heat transfer through the envelope (by insulation & infiltration sealing)
The atmosphere serves as a medium of heat exchange in 2 ways.
Ventilation Ventilative cooling flushes warm air from the inside of the building with the
cooler outside air.
Added to that it also enhances skin cooling by perspiration.
Evaporation In Evaporative cooling building components are wetted intentionally & they
are exposed to airflow. This serves as one of the most effective cooling strategies in all
1. Ventilative Cooling
Exhausting warm building air and replacing it with cooler outside air.
Directing moving air across occupants skin to cool by combination of convection and
In passive applications, air movement is provided either by wind or stack effect.
In hybrid applications, air movement may be assisted by fans.
2. Radiative Cooling

This is the transfer of heat from warmer surface to a cooler surrounding surface or outer
This may be used to cool the
1. Building where warm building surfaces radiate heat to the sky.
2. People where warm skin radiates heat to the cooler surrounding room surfaces (Ex.
To the cool walls of an underground building)
3. Evaporative cooling
Exchange of sensible heat in air, for the latent heat of water droplets of wetted surfaces
This may be used to
Cool the building where wetted surfaces are cooled by evaporation
Cool the building air cooled either directly by evaporation or indirectly by contact with a
surface already cooled by evaporation.
Cool the occupants where evaporation of perspiration cools the skin surface.
4. Dehumidification
Removal of water vapour from room air by dilution with drier air, condensation or
In case of condensation and desiccation, dehumidification is the exchange of latent heat in
air for the sensible heat of water droplets on surfaces. This is just the reverse of evaporative
cooling and as such are adiabatic heating processes.
5. Mass Effect Cooling
Use of thermal mass to absorb heat during the warmest part of a periodic temperature cycle
and release it later during the cooler part.
Night flushing cool night air is drawn through a building to exhaust (remove) the heat
stored in massive floors and walls during the daytime.
Night flushing is an example of daily cycle of mass effect cooling.

Passive cooling by induced ventilation can be most effective in hot and humid as well as hot
& dry climates.
This method involves the heating of air in a restricted area through solar radiation thus
creating a temperature difference and causing air movement. The draft causes hot air to
rise and escape to the outside, drawing in cooler air and thereby effecting cooling.

In order to make the cooling due to ventilation to be effective, 15 to 30 air changes per hour
is needed to be maintained as against one air change per hour occuring in infiltration.
Also ventilation does not provide comfort under all weather conditions. In hot dry climates,
the air temperature may be higher than the skin temperature. In humid climates, ventilation
helps in reducing discomfort.


Curved Roofs and vents are used in combination for passive cooling of air in hot and dry
climates where dusty winds make wind towers impracticable.
Curved Roofs are inherently stronger than flat roofs.
They receive the same amount of solar radiation as in case of flat roofs but provide larger
surface area for heat transfer.
The wind velocity at the apex of a curved roof is higher than that over a flat roof. This
results in an increase in the convective heat transfer for the surface to outside air. Hence
curved roofs are easily cooled.
The roofs are made cylindrical with axis normal to the direction of wind if wind direction is
fixed; else dome type roofs are employed.

A curved roof with an air vent is most effective. A vent is a hole cut in the apex of a domed
or cylindrical roof. Since wind velocity is higher over a curved roof, it results in a decrease of
pressure of air. Consequently, hot air under the roof forces its way out through the vent thus
inducing ventilation.
The air vents are usually placed above the living rooms.

Wind towers are essentially masonry structures designed to capture wind, cool it and
circulate it through a building.
It resembles a chimney with one end in the basement of the building while the other end
rising above the roof.
Wind towers are generally used in hot and dry climates for cooling purposes. A prerequisite
for using a wind tower is that the site should experience winds with a fairly good and
consistent velocity.
A wind tower operates in various ways according to the time of day and presence/absence
of wind. The cardinal principle behind its operation lies in changing the temperature and
thus density of air in and around the tower. The difference in density creates a draft pulling
air either upwards or downwards through the tower.
The tower is so designed that the top part of it provides large heat storage capacity and
also has a large surface area for heat transfer. The tower walls and internal walls of tower
absorb heat during the day and release it at night.
Solar heat stored in the walls during the day warms the night air in the tower. Warm air
moves up creates an upward draft and is exhausted through the openings at the top.
Consequently the air in the building is entrained up through the tower and cool night air is
pulled into the building through the doors and windows. Thus in the absence of wind the
tower acts as a chimney. Again nocturnal radiation to sky brings further cooling.

However if there is wind at night, the air circulation is reversed. The cool night air enters the
tower and forces itself down into structure. Though it slightly warms up as it comes down
the tower, yet sufficient cooling can be achieved due to forced circulation. Again cooling due
to nocturnal radiation adds to this process.
The hot ambient air coming in contact with cool top part of the tower (cooled during
previous night) is cooled.
It becomes cooler and denser and hence sinks down through the tower and into the living
space replacing the hot room air. Thus a circulation is maintained.
In the presence of wind, the air is cooled more effectively and flows faster down the tower
and into living area.
It must be noted that in the absence of wind, the temperature of tower wall soon reaches
that of ambient air so that downward flow of air ceases. The tower then begins to operate
like a chimney.
Hence it is clear that the operation of tower is strongly dependant on ambient fluctuations
like wind velocity, air temperature changes etc. However wind towers are more effective
than evaporative or desert coolers.


Earth air tunnels may be considered as special types of wind tower which is connected to
an underground tunnel.
The cooling process is based on the fact that the temperature, a few metres below the
ground is almost constant throughout the year (i.e. less than the day ambient temperature
in summer).
A wind tower is connected to the underground tunnel which runs from the bottom of wind
tower to the building. The wind tower catches the wind which is forced down the tower into
the tunnel. The temperature of the tunnel being lower than that of the ambient temperature
cools the air before being circulated to the living space.

In winter, the temperature of the tunnel is higher than the ambient temperature and hence
warms the air passing through it. Thus it can be used for both summer cooling and winter
The system can be more effective if in addition to sensible cooling, evaporative cooling is
also made. This can be accomplished by shading the ground over the tunnel by planting
trees, shrubs, grass etc. When the ground is watered, water seeps through the soil and
dampens the tunnel walls. Consequently the air from the tower is evaporatively cooled as it
passes through tunnel.


Radiative cooling is the transfer of heat from a warmer surface to a cooler surrounding
surface or outer space. It may be used to
Cool the building where warm surface radiates heat to the sky or
Cool the people where warm skin radiates heat to a cooler surrounding room surfaces (Ex
to cool walls of an underground building)
Nocturnal radiative cooling refers to cooling achieved due to exposure of any element of the
external envelope of building to cool night sky. Heat loss occurs by emission of long wavelength
radiation and hence surfaces should have high emissivity. The heat accumulated during day is
lost by radiation to cool nights thereby cooling the envelope. The envelope thus acts as cold
storage during the day drawing the heat away from living space. The method works efficiently
without consuming any water like evaporative cooling systems.
As the roof of the building is the most exposed part to the sky, it is the most effective long
wave radiator. The heat exchange depends on temperature difference between emitting
surface and temperature of atmosphere. If there is a large day-night temperature change
(diurnal temperature variation) then the radiative night heat loss will be more.
Clouds are very effective in blocking the outgoing radiation.
Cloudiness %
% of outgoing radiation










90 100
35 15

The thermal link between the emitting surface and the living space has to be good for
effective radiative cooling. Otherwise the cooling resulting from radiation exchange will only
serve to cool the ambient air rather than the living space.
Different methods of radiative cooling are
Radiative Ice ponds
Roof ponds Skytherm system & Cool Pool system
Radiative cooling was used to produce ice in hot-arid regions of ancient Iran
The winter nighttime temperature often dropped within a few degrees of freezing.
Shallow rectangular ponds 30-60 wide on N-S axis and several 100 long on E-W axis
were created.
An adobe wall was built on south side of each pond high enough to shade the entire width
of the pond during ice making season and shield it from the convective warming effect of
the wind.
Lower end walls shielded the ponds from early morning and afternoon sun.
On cloudless winter nights the ponds were filled with water. Although there is some
conductive warming effect from ground, the radiative cooling to night sky is sufficient to
freeze the ice several inches in thickness.
The next day this was cut, stored in covered insulated pits for storage until summer.
ROOFPONDS Skytherm system
(Refer Passive heating notes)
The Skytherm system was tested in a full-scale test room & an occupied house.
The building is a single storey building with a level uninsulated metal pan structural roof.
The roof has a plastic bag filled with water (similar to a water bed) 6-8 deep.
The upper layer of the bag was transparent while the bottom layer was black to increase

The whole roof was finally equipped with horizontally sliding insulating panels which slide to
cover the roof and when opened out rests on an unconditioned area like garage or porch.

During Summer day, the insulating panels are slided in and the water bags are closed so that it
is protected from solar heat gain. The water in the bags absorbs heat from the room through
the roof/ceiling.
During summer night, the panels are removed thus the water bags radiate heat to the night sky.
Thus radiative cooling is enhanced.
During winter day, the water bags are not covered with insulating panels. Thus the water
absorbs solar heat. This heat is conducted through the metal ceiling/roof and radiated to the
room below.
During winter night, the bags are covered by insulating panels to reduce heat loss.
This operation is further enhanced by the use of a second covering plastic layer slightly
inflated to provide an insulating air space.
During summer, the top surface may be flooded or sprayed to promote evaporative cooling.
In addition, ceiling fans can be used to increase the convective transfer between room air &
metal ceiling.
With the help of these 2 enhancements evaporative flooding/spraying & ceiling fans, roof
pond cooling can provide comfort. This system is most effective in climates, which has both
heating and cooling requirements.
In colder climates, the horizontal slope is a very inefficient collector orientation because of
the low winter altitude of sun at northern latitudes.
In addition, the presence of ice and snow may interfere with the operation of the insulating
shutters, which is essential to systems performance.

This is an innovative passive cooling system.
It consists of an open roof pond shaded from summer sun by sloping louvers, which allow
exposure of the pond to the north sky.
In addition to evaporation, pool is cooled by radiation to sky. The cooled water is piped to a
large water storage tube placed inside the building so that thermo circulation occurs any time
the roof pool is cooler than the storage tube.
During daytime

The louvers are so designed that it cuts down the solar radiation. The
water in the storage tube removes the heat from the building and thus
cools it.

During nighttime

The water radiates heat to the night sky and the cooled water in the pool
is being circulated into the storage tube.

This cooled water again cools down the interior by absorbing the heat from the interior.

Evaporative Cooling Exchange of sensible heat in air for the latent heat of water droplets on
wetted surfaces.
This evaporative cooling may be used to
Cool the building where wetted surfaces are cooled by evaporation as the water absorbs
the heat from the surface thus cooling it.
Cool the air where it is cooled directly by evaporation or indirectly by contact with a
surface previously cooled by evaporation.
Cool the occupants where evaporation of perspiration cools the skin.
The basic principle lies in the fact that the sensible heat of air is used to evaporate water
thus cooling the air which inturn cools the living space.

Evaporative cooling methods can be used in many ways:

1. Evaporative cooling of building surfaces
In a tropical country like India, the solar radiation incident on roof is high in summer. The
evaporation is more effective if water is sprinkled over a water retentive material (gunny bags)
spread over the roof surface & thus providing uniform wet surface. Solar radiation falling on
water film is utilized in evaporation and thus prevented from entering the room.
In addition to cooling the roof, evaporation also causes cooling of air above the roof. As
a result the air becomes heavier than the hot air & slides down the walls of building. This cooled
air when drifts into the living space due to infiltration & ventilation replaces room air, thereby
aiding thermal comfort.
2. The presence of a waterbody such as pond, lake, sea etc. near the building or fountain in
the courtyard can provide cooling effect.
3. Another approach to evaporative cooling is to obtain it during the night hours. The amount
of water needed to produce the same cooling effect will be much smaller for night cooling than
that of daytime. Evaporatively cooled night air can be utilized to cool a gravel bed by blowing
the air through it. During the following day, it is possible to utilize this stored cold for cooling the
room air.
4. Dual Rock Bed Coolers
Researchers have developed a low-cost hybrid indirect evaporative cooling system that
utilizes two parallel rock beds as heat exchangers.
Room air is cooled by spraying and is blown through a bed of rocks (cooling the rocks
charging) before being exhausted to the exterior.
Outside hot dry air is drawn through a separate identical cool rock bed (discharging the heat
to the rock bed) thus cooling the air before entering the building.
After a short period of operation (10 to 20 mins) an air diverter damper changes the
circulation pattern reversing the roles of rock beds.
There are 2 ways of evaporative cooling Direct & Indirect Evaporative cooling


This direct evaporation cooling occurs when relatively dry air is blown over a wetted
Example: Breeze blowing through a fountain or over a pond is cooled by direct evaporation.
Such landscaping features are among the best ways to implement the cooling strategy
because there is an automatic control of the process and there are also aesthetic benefits.
The7 disadvantage is that the moisture & cooling effect of such strategies are dissipated
only to the outside of the building and thus wasted.
Swamp Coolers
Between World War I & II, commercially manufactured direct evaporative cooling units became
popular throughout SW. These units were in the form of a mass produced perforated metal box
with 3 sides packed with pads of shredded aspen wood. This was saturated with water that ran
from the slotted pipes which was running along their upper edges. The belt driven centrifugal
blower inside draws outside air through the wet pads and discharge it into the house through
the bottom.
Because a motor is used, they are considered hybrid rather than strictly passive.
These simple coolers could reduce the temperature of the incoming air to within 5-10 degrees
Fahrenheit of the outdoor temperature.
They were reliable, inexpensive and requires only small amount of electricity to operate.


Indirect evaporative coolers separate the evaporatively cooled air from the conditioned
room air.
This technique allows the temperature to be reduced without adding humidity to the room
air unlike the previous method.
This is particularly well suited where humidity is too high for direct evaporative cooling.

Because motor is usually employed it is typically a hybrid process rather than a purely
passive one.
One method is an Open loop process where outside air is being cooled by evaporation and let
inside thus replacing the hot air inside the room.
The alternative indirect process is Closed loop process, where the air inside the room is
allowed to pass through a loop where it is cooled by evaporation and then this cooled air is let
inside the room again.

While there is an advantage of not increasing humidity there is some loss of effectiveness
due to the inefficiency of the heat exchange process.
In most cases commercial indirect evaporation has efficiency of around 65%.
All evaporative strategies involving spraying or flooding building surfaces are indirect
because the humidity added during the evaporation process remains outside isolated from
the interior air.


Desiccant is a chemical drying material that removes moisture (latent heat) from air while
raising the temperature (adding sensible heat).
This method is effective in Warm & Humid climates. Natural cooling of human body through
sweating does not occur in highly humid climates. Therefore mans tolerance to high
temperature is reduced. In such a situation it is desirable to decrease the humidity level. In
desiccant cooling method, desiccant salts or mechanical dehumidifiers are used to reduce
the humidity in atmosphere.
Materials having high affinity for water are used for dehumidification of moist air. These can
be either solid or liquid materials.
Solid substances include silica gel, alumina gel, activated alumina, molecular sieve etc.
Hydrophilic liquids such as triethylene glycol can be used for dehumidification.

Moist air from outside enters the unit containing desiccants and is dried adiabatically before
entering the living space. The desiccants are then regenerated by solar energy.

Buildings with substantial mass utilize their thermal storage capabilities to achieve
cooling in different ways

By dampening out interior daily temperature swings

Be delaying daily temperature extremes

By ventilating (flushing) the building at night.

By earth contact to achieve seasonal storage


Earth is a virtually infinite heat sink. The magnitude of its heat storage capacity
makes it possible to use it for seasonal storage purposes.

At depths below 20 soil temperature is stable

At shallower depths soil temperature swings are reduced as depth increases.

In addition, there is a time lag that increases with depth.

Example at a depth of 12 the soil temperature reaches its peak after about 3
months after that of the surface.

The thermal characteristics of soil vary with

Soil type



In addition, surface conditions like shade, insulating ground cover, and sky
temperature affect soil temperatures.

There are 2 strategies for utilizing earth contact for building cooling

Direct contact where building envelope is partially or completely buried under


Indirect contact where the building is cooled by buried heat exchangers such
as pipes, air tubes etc.


Earth sheltering is the strategy of covering the walls and/ or roof with soil.

It may be either constructing the building underground with openings only for
entrances &windows or it may be limited to berming (mounding) earth against
one or more walls.

The main purpose of establishing direct contact between building surfaces and
ground is to use the soil mass for thermal storage.

In cases where soil thickness is thin for example 2 on roof, then the thermal
storage is sufficient only for moderating daily temperature variations. In cases of
completely underground construction, the increased thermal mass (soil) provides
stable annual temperature resulting in seasonal storage i.e. heat gained by
surface in summer is stored several months to offset heat loss & in summer the
relatively cool soil provides a large heat sink that is an asset for cooling.

Advantages of earth sheltered construction

Reduced heating & cooling loads, because there is a reduced conductive &
infiltrative transfer & soil is a highly good thermal storage mass.

Possibility of increasing the area of vegetation on site in case of earth covered


Fire resistive construction

Greater acoustical privacy

Reduced external surface area for maintenance

Reduced exterior visibility.


Increased structural costs.

Expensive roof waterproofing systems that are inaccessible for repair.

Expensive moisture & vermin resistant insulation

Humidity control, which is required in cool humid climates to prevent

Occurrence of condensation on perimeter walls that are in contact with the earth
mass is a problem with earth-sheltered designs.

Immediately after construction of cast-in-situ concrete, water vapour is

continuously released into interior envelope as concrete cures. This results in
abnormally high humidity in interiors. This in turn causes condensation on walls.
This problem persists for several months and is still made worse by the presence
of waterproofing membrane because it limits the moisture release to the interior
wall surface only.
But this wall condensation can be a continuing problem in cool humid regions
because in such regions it is common for the soil temperature to drop below dew
point. Hence insulation between soil & wall becomes important not only to reduce
winter conductive heat loss but also to buffer the wall from the cooling effect of
soil in summer. This allows the wall surface temperature to be more close to the
interior air temperature.
Condensation is undesirable because it results in moisture damage to the
finishes (paint, plaster, wall paper, carpet) as well as the formation of mild dew. To
eliminate the problem, increased ventilation of affected rooms, which tends to
warm the wall by convection nearer to room air temperature, may be sufficient.

Necessity to install thermal breaks to prevent conductive heat loss through

structural walls & roof.

This problem of Thermal nose bleed the conductive heat loss that occurs
when building structure is continuous from interior to exterior. This is a particular
problem because the large structural loads are typically supported by concrete
members (walls, roof, floor) that need to be continuous structurally.
Therefore to prevent heat loss, it is necessary to install thermal breaks to effectively










A common misconception is that underground structures need be dark, cool & damp.
On the contrary, numerous strategies have evolved to utilize direct gain passive
heating & day lighting making them cheerful as well as energy efficient buildings.
Two alternatives that provide generous access to sun for lighting & heating are

Elevational plans i.e primary rooms arranged in a row along one elevation.

Atrium plans

In this strategy, a fluid (air or liquid) is cooled as it is circulated through an
underground conduit (tunnels, ducts, pipes etc), the fluid in turn cools the structure.
The circulation pattern can be

Open loop Air drawn from outside through tubes and then let into building.

Closed loop Air is circulated from building through the underground conduit and
then let back to building.