Those living in hot, arid climates often have no choice but to rely on central air conditioning systems to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors.
However, a new 3D “cool brick” could change all of that — removing the need for air conditioning in even the most unbearably hot of climates.
According to a February 22 Daily Californian article, Ronald Rael, an associate professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, designed the brick along with former professor Virginia San Fratello. The brick consists of porous ceramic and has a lattice-like structure through which air can flow.
These bricks absorb water vapor like a sponge; when warm air subsequently passes through the bricks, this absorbed water vapor cools the air, causing the interior air to be simultaneously cooled and humidified.
Central air conditioners, which are normally located outside the home, regulate indoor temperatures by circulating cool air through supply and return ducts. It’s estimated that air conditioning accounts for as much as 9 – 14% of energy consumed by homes and buildings. With Rael and San Fratello’s cool brick, however, this energy would be saved — along with the not-insignificant amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted by traditional air conditioners.
Further research into how the bricks will function in a practical setting is required before they can be used commercially, the Daily Californian reports. In the meantime, another eco-friendly air-conditioning alternative exists: radiant cooling.
According to JustMeans, radiant cooling involves cooling a building’s walls, ceilings and floors with water rather than forced airflow. While radiant cooling does require some air movement for circulation reasons, this method of air conditioning uses just 5% of the energy and 20% of the ductwork that central air conditioning systems use.
Radiant cooling has been popular throughout Europe for 25 years already — and as Americans become increasingly climate-conscious, it’s entirely likely that this water-based cooling system could become more widespread across the pond.