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One of the most practical and effective ways to accomplish sustainability and green-living, even in an urban environment, is through natural ventilation. What is natural ventilation? In simple terms, natural ventilation is a method of allowing fresh outdoor air into living spaces without the use of air conditioning units and other types of mechanically driven devices. Another term associated with natural ventilation is “passive cooling”,  which refers to designs that do not use complicated or sophisticated mechanical equipment in order to induce comfortable conditions in a building interior. A good and simple example is building large open windows in a home instead of incorporating air conditioning units.

Here are 10 simple ways you can use natural ventilation, whether your building or home is already laid out or you’re in the planning phase.

For homes that are designed:

1. Ground Coverings. Cover pavements and surrounding grounds with grass or other  low heat absorbing materials. By opting for grass, for example, the heat retained in the ground is very minimal. This greatly helps directing cool air inside your home or building.

2. Earth Mounds. Earth mounds are an amazing example of biomimicry that derive their air circulation concepts from insect mounds and black-tailed prairie dogs. They are great to add as a part of your home/garden/yard landscape to help aid air circulation, especially in the summer months.

3.  Water Elements. Like in many oriental landscapes and home designs, water is an important element. Fountains, pools or swimming pools can act as transition spaces where air is naturally cooled before passing through interiors.

4.  Wicker or bamboo furnishings. These materials are able to encourage good air flow due to their airy construction and low heat retention. Wicker and bamboo are ideal for the outdoors, but also work great indoors.

5.  Frequent opening of windows. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people rarely open windows in their homes for reasons ranging from noise, to dust and safety concerns. This reduces the need for electric fans or other cooling systems and depending on where you live, fresh air can also improve indoor air quality

For new homes:

1.   Window Height. Installing windows that are at least 3.6 feet high helps indoor air movement and also reduces the heat load on ceilings.

2.   Wind/Air deflectors. These can be positioned either horizontally or vertically to redirect air flow and can be installed in the form of overhangs, louvers or slats and should be placed on a higher level to redirect air motion.

3.   Clerestories. Clerestories not only provide natural illumination, but can also improve air movement. Since hot air is known to go upward, a clerestory is able to act as a vent and space for the hot air to accumulate.

4.  Window orientation. Windows should be placed on the north and south areas for optimum cross-ventilation, unless it hinders aesthetic views. This encourages natural breeze and draws in good air flow into interiors, especially during the summer months.

5.  Transitional spaces. Incorporate courts, balconies, atriums and other open spaces that encourage air flow.

The advantages of natural ventilation are compelling. The energy costs are dramatically lowered down, air quality is improved and chemical substances released in the air by air conditioners or other mechanical devices is minimized. Overall, using natural ventilation in your home can have a tremendous positive impact on its occupants, the building itself and the environment.

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