Shutters – a great way of keeping out the heat

In those days when we were travelling at all, you only had to set foot on continental soil after getting off the ferry to see a very different type of architecture straightaway. Almost every window is shuttered.

We had an interesting time in our holiday accommodation experimenting with both outside and inside shutters in order to get the continental temperature right.

Contrast this with, on the one hand higher end modern housing estates, and on the other those individually bespoke architectural fantasmagorias so beloved by moneyed peoples in this country.

Too much glass is what they have in common. Who really wants floor to ceiling glass? Supposedly this, “lets in the light”.

You’ve got to be kidding.

People of previous generations may have been poor but they had the sense to live in simpler stone built properties with small windows.

No doubt, after working all day in the fields, they wanted to get away from the strong light. Wind forward several generations and we face a monumental challenge.

The one of how to live successfully when there is far too much heat and light. Those huge plate glass windows don’t help us deal with the effects of global warming.

The technical aspects are that thick stone walls and floors have high thermal mass and absorb heat in the day and release it at night.

So here we are now stuck with badly designed modern properties to include all those tall glass office blocks in modern cities. These latter are uninhabitable without modern air conditioning.

But the bill for air conditioning long term can only be astronomical. The cost we are going to have to fork out to cool properties down make no sense at all as we face the double whammy of climate change and hugely inflated energy prices.”Air conditioning already accounts for 10 per cent of the world’s total electricity demand. But its use is expected to triple by 2050”, (The Sunday Times, July 17th).

An enormous amount can be learnt from the simpler dwellings lived in by our predecessors in this country, by the almost standard feature of shuttered windows in continental countries today, and from architects who understand the simpler physical properties of successful designs that help humans deal with climate variations.

As for all that glass? No, we don’t need it. If you want a “good view”, go outside. (and get rid of the glass).

Elizabeth Smith


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