Ahhhh…. Summertime.

I imagine that for you, like me, the word brings all kinds of memories flooding back. The first things that come to my mind are camping, swimming,  fireworks, and sustainability.

Fireworks are the Highlight of my summer

Fireworks are the Highlight of my summer

When I was in high school and had a little more carefree life I would often be camping more nights in a summer than I was home. It was wonderful. I would head to the mountain, after I was done with my job on a local ranch, with not much more that a blanket, a case of soda, and a chainsaw. The blanket to stay warm. The soda to stay caffeinated. And the chainsaw to cut wood for a big fire. My friends and I would make a fire and stay up chatting for hours. At some point we would lay down in the back of our trucks for a little nights sleep. As soon as the sun made it to warm to sleep. We would get up head into town to shower and work, and then back to the mountain the next night.

MMMMMMMMMMM Homemade Root Beer is the best

MMMMMMMMMMM Homemade Root Beer is the best

My grandma lives a block from the blast off location for the Vernal City fireworks. When I was a kid almost all my cousins also lived in Vernal. So every 4th of July my whole extended family would gather and spend all afternoon eating, playing, and drinking homemade root beer.

Ahhhh….homemade root beer is the best.

Then as it started started to get dark out came the sparklers. And finally the coup de Gras, the city fireworks went off. It was great to sit there as a family and watch the spectacular celebration.

Now that I'm older (read an old fuddy-duddy) a lot of these things have went away. I don't camp near as much as I used to and we only get to go home to homemade root beer and firework once in awhile. Now as the temperatures rise the thing I thing about the most is Sustainability.

A little weird I know, but let me try to explain.

Each summer as the heat starts to come all around my neighborhood can be heard the whirr of condenser units. I have only had one summer of my life where I lived in a home with central air conditioning. Luckily, I have lived in the Mountain West for all my life, and for those of you who don't know that means high temperatures and low humidity. Because of the low humidity we are able to use evaporative cooling, i.e. swamp coolers. This is the way my parents “state of the art” house built in the early 80’s was cooled. It is the way most homes built in that era were cooled. Granted it never got so cold in the summer that you had to put on a jacket inside (I walked into some people's house and felt that need), but it felt amazing after spending a few minutes outside in the +100° heat.

However since the late eighties design trends have decided that central air conditioning is an absolute must. I would venture a guess that nearly ZERO new homes are built without it. It is interesting that we have given up on a more sustainable strategy of evaporative cooling in favor of an energy intense central air system. For my money sustainability is at its height when it's about low technology processes. Strangely though current design trends make sustainability out to only be possible through high technology. If it doesn't have photovoltaic panels it can't be sustainable. Like most architects I think the PV is only really the right choice if it is the icing on the cake. After a building has been properly sited, insulated, and all the other correct non-technology systems are correct, then it is the correct time to start putting additional technological effort towards the problem. But I think more than that one of the most sustainable choices we can make is to understand that (if you live in an area with seasons) it is ok if the inside temperature changes throughout the year.

I currently live in a really old house, 111 years, and I really like it (most of the time). It has wonderful charm. Although the charm was a little less appealing yesterday when I spent all day hauling dirty out of my basement (seriously who would put huge dirt clots on the shelf of a basement). One of the really great things about living in a older house is that it was designed before the era of abundant energy. The people who built it were thinking about ways to stay comfortable despite not having power. The main solutions was huge double hung windows, sadly the top pane is painted shut (someday I will get them fixed). These beautiful windows provide many benefits, like as long as there is any light outside we can survive without turning on lights. We also get to use a low tech cooling method. Every evening around sunset we start the fans (Another advantage of the intermountain west is low nighttime temperatures). We can point the upstairs fans out the windows and the down stairs fans in. This helps to augment the stack effect and soon the house is flooded with cool air. Using this method the amount of energy use to cool the house is way is really minimal. At some point (probably never) we will get an evaporative cooler installed to help take the peak off the afternoon temperatures in the house.

Until then we will continue to use old fashioned methods to try and stay cool. And as always we will be enjoy all of the fireworks and homemade root beer we can get our hands on.

This post is part of the #architalks series. Architects is a group of architect bloggers that all write on the same subject once a month. Below is a list of some of the other "summer" posts. Check them out, it is fun to see how varied the conversation on a single topic can be.

Bob Borson – Life of an Architect
Architectural Bucket List

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Summer Break = Extreme Architecture

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Summer Break and Aunt Loretta

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
summer break

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Vacationing with an Architect

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
Summer Getaway

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects
summer Getaway

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
#Architalks 10 – Give me a Break!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
#Architalks 10 – “summer break”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Architalks: There, but not there

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom
Summer Break

Michael Riscica – Young Architect
The Architecture Students Summer Break

Architect: Gift or Curse?

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect
The Education of an Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Summer Vacation

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC
A Brilliant Summer Break

Eric Wittman – intern[life]
summer break [or] summer school

Sharon George – Architecture By George
Summer Break #ArchiTalks

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
Summer Break