Most of the places I mention in my occasional building of the week series are in the UK, which means the energy saving features focus on heating. Here’s a building from India with the opposite problem – if you’re building a college in a hot and dry atmosphere, how can you keep it cool and comfortable?
The designers of the Pearl Academy of Fashion in Jaipur used a range of modern and ancient techniques to give the building its own microclimate. First, it is double-skinned, with a perforated stone outer layer that allows light through but creates a ‘thermal buffer’ between the inside and the outside. Like many traditional buildings in hot climates, there are extensive shaded courtyards, and rooms are built on pillars to allow for air circulation – all classic elements of passive cooling.
The smartest element of the building though is underneath it, where a pool has been dug out and filled with water, creating an evaporative cooling system. The pool is surrounded by steps and doubles up as a recreational and performance space. It is fed by the rainwater harvesting and waste water recycling systems.
What’s particularly nice about this solution is that it’s a modern twist on the architectural heritage of the area. Elaborate stepwells were commonplace in India in the past – a unique form of architecture that goes downwards into the earth rather than upwards. Stepwells stored monsoon rainfall and provided a community water source, but were also a shaded retreat and meeting place. Some of them were as richly decorated as Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. If you haven’t come across them before, you should do yourself a favour and go and look at some photos of them.