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Historic practices of ventilative cooling - A case study on the House of Parliament, 1836 – 1966

Schoenefeldt, Henrik (2019) Historic practices of ventilative cooling - A case study on the House of Parliament, 1836 – 1966. In: Kolokotroni, M., ed. Innovations in Ventilative Cooling at building and urban scale. Springer. (In press) (KAR id:78598)

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Ventilative cooling is a concern of contemporary practice, but historic buildings illustrate that the use of ventilation for cooling has been a much more longstanding practice. It was widely utilised in public buildings throughout 19th century and first half of the 20th century, often in combination with other historic cooling techniques.

Amongst Victorian buildings designed to utilised ventilative cooling, was, the Royal Albert Hall, National Gallery and British Museum but also various market halls and exhibition halls, such as Smithfield market and the Crystal Palace of 1851. Also icons of the modern movement, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall in Chicago, were designed utilise ventilative cooling to mitigate overheating issues. Today the interest in the use of ventilative cooling is driven by a search for more energy efficient cooling techniques, but in the 19th century its use was a necessity, driven by the technical limitations of historic refrigeration methods. As such historic buildings provide setting/ where the challenges of cooling buildings before the introduction of mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning can be studied.

The objective of this chapter is to explore ventilative cooling as a historic practice, using the Houses of Parliament as case study. The debating chamber, subject to significant overheating issues, provide intimate insights into the historic practices, illuminating how ventilative cooling techniques were deployed to mitigate overheating encountered during hot weather and under crowded conditions. Inside the two debating chambers ventilation was utilised for cooling purpose in three different ways. In addition to (1) reducing the indoor air temperature, ventilation was utilized to (2) harness the cooling effect of air movement, (3) and also to cool the architectural fabric, following the principal of night-purge ventilation.

This chapter focuses primarily on the experience within the House of Lords, but excursions will be undertaken into some parallel investigations inside the House of Commons. The latter was built in 1852 but was destroyed during air raids in 1941 and subsequent rebuilt incorporating modern air conditioning and mechanical ventilation technology. In the House of Lords, historic practices of ventilative cooling continued to be deployed for another 16 years. Air conditioning was not introduced in this upper chamber before 1966. Covering the period from 1835 until 1950 this chapter re-examines the experience and knowledge that users, scientific researchers and technical staff had acquired, illuminating the practical challenges of achieving thermal comfort through ventilative cooling, covering both mechanical and natural methods. These not only engaged with the technological but also managerial and user-experience perspectives. To recover these historical experiences with the use of ventilative cooling, it was necessary not only to study its physical architecture, but also its operational history, an area that overlaps with the domain of facilities management. Archival material, such as log-books, letters, scientific reports and parliamentary papers, was used to uncover some of the tentative knowledge acquired through day-to-day observations and user feedback, but also the deeper understanding gained through formal scientific investigations. These records offer critical insights into the ways the climate and ventilation managed, using a combination of mechanical and passive strategies, how it had performed and also how it was experienced by users. Several attempts were also made to improve the cooling arrangement, which involved physical and operational changes but also hypothetical design studies, exploring the possibility of more fundamental changes to the historic practices

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: House of Lords, natural cooling, architectural conservation, heritage, thermal comfort
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
T Technology > TH Building construction
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Henrik Schoenefeldt
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2019 13:43 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Schoenefeldt, Henrik:
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