Caribbean Cool

Traditional Caribbean houses were designed to stay cool in the tropical heat. There was no air conditioning, so builders used wind, shade and stone to make houses cool. The location of a home, the direction it faced and what was built around it could all make a difference. There were also many design elements that kept houses cool and you can see them right here.

A thick foundation can absorb heat and cool the home.

The Old House was built with a massive stone foundation, this keeps the floor dry and protected in storms or floods. It also keeps the house cool. The foundation acts as a thermal mass, absorbing the heat from the house.

High ceilings give hot air space to rise, leaving it cooler below. Openings between rooms allow air to flow all around the house in any direction. The kitchen was not part of the house, so the heat from cooking fires was not near the living space.

High ceilings and openings between rooms help hot air escape.

The Old House is designed with windows and doors across from each other, so wind can blow through the house. This design can have ten times the air flow compared to a window on only one side. The windows are at human height so people can enjoy the cooling breeze.

Windows were made with louvers—slats of wood that can be tilted. These allowed air to pass, while still providing shade. Residents could change the angle of the louvers to direct the incoming breeze where they wanted it.

Louvers let wind pass through while providing shade.

Many of these heat beating strategies were developed over time, right here in the Caribbean. Today we see these features as part of the unique style of Caribbean architecture. But many of these design decisions were made for very specific reasons.

Over time, we have developed new building materials and techniques. We also have electric fans and air conditioning. But relearning some old school Caribbean design tricks can still help us today. Modern designers are looking at how we can use these methods to keep homes comfy while using less energy. Perhaps the Caribbean home of the future will start to look a bit like the homes of the past.

What parts of your home design help keep it cool? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to [email protected].

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