Waterfront Vancouver © Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Reducing the need for cooling

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In the context of climate change and global warming, sun blinds are an option that deserves more attention. Better insulation means that houses are being air conditioned more and more frequently. In the Dutch climate, if the architectural design is good and if proper exterior sun blinds are used, air conditioning is unnecessary, and should in fact be avoided.

The most important principle in air conditioning buildings is to create architectural designs that require very little, if any, air conditioning. A great deal still has to be done here: new buildings that are properly insulated but lack exterior sun blinds often become too hot. The increasing use of air conditioning units, which use a lot of energy, in residential construction shows that this problem needs to be addressed to limit the proliferation of those units. Exterior blinds combined with a design that is geared towards the local climate present a reasonable alternative, if necessary linked to a thermal activation system for building elements combined with a heat pump. Besides heat pumps, co-generation systems can also be used for cooling purposes in the summer. Solar energy is another possible means of powering air conditioning: it offers the advantage that energy for air conditioning is available when most needed. However, this is an expensive solution, since investments are needed not only for the air conditioning units but also for the solar energy.

Vegetation can be used as a sun shade; deciduous plants provide shade in summer while letting warming sunshine through in winter. Evergreen facade vegetation can limit loss through emission in winter.

Reducing the need for cooling © atelier GROENBLAUW

In the context of climate change and the heating up of our cities, neighbourhood green and evaporation from vegetation and thus cooling is of great value for the microclimate and quality of life in an area.

City and neighbourhood parks have a tempering effect on the temperature in adjacent neighbourhoods with a reach equal to the radius of the park. Green zones in cities which connect to outer green areas also provide urban ventilation. All these temperature lowering measures reduce the need for cooling and improve the urban climate (see Chapter 5 on Heat).