Using traditional Arabic wind towers could have huge energy savings

Using traditional Arabic wind towers could have huge energy savings
Published: 19 January 2014 - 4:01 a.m.
By: CW Guest Columnist

A traditional Arabic form of architecture could be a solution to the huge energy usage for air conditioning in hot countries, according to a UK-based academic.

The wind tower – a fixture of Middle Eastern architecture for almost 1,000 years – could provide 21st century sustainable design solutions, said Ben Hughes, associate professor of building physics at Leeds University.

The historic Creek area of Dubai has some of the greatest concentrations of the towers in the Middle East.

“They used to build the towers as tall as possible (to) capture the air at high speed. As it hits the tower, there’s a wall that runs down the centre of it that forces the wind down into the building,” said Hughes.

“The higher up you go, the faster the airspeed is.”

The build-up of positive pressure inside the structure automatically creates negative pressure on the outside, which means that internal stale air is drawn away.

“It creates a siphon effect,” Hughes explained. “It pushes air into the building and sucks stale and used air out the other side of the wind tower.

“In arid climates such as the Gulf, then a reduction in air-con consumption of around 60% is possible.”

The professor said he felt the towers could be easily assimilated into contemporary architectural designs – but added that tall buildings offer some challenges.

“Wind towers can be bespoke manufactured to meet any design requirements, either from traditional materials or sheet metal depending on the aesthetics of the project,” he said.

“Similarly, the height of the tower can be adjusted by altering the angle of the air inlet vents to compensate.

“It follows similar principles of an aircraft where the air pressure is varied by altering the angle of the wing.

“Tall buildings are not necessarily the best use of the system as supplying the lower floors can prove problematic due to the length of ducting required and needs careful design to include significant buoyancy effect to assist the airflow.

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