Cool Building Solutions for a Warming World

In 2018 countries across the globe experienced severe summer heat waves. Unfortunately, if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, this trend will continue as three-quarters of humanity are projected to face deadly heat by the end of this century. To meet the demand of a warmer future, the IEA report,“The Future of Cooling”, projects that by 2050 about two-thirds of the world’s households could have an air conditioner. However, the world cannot sustainably cool its population using only air conditioners; we need to first apply building passive and low-energy cooling and energy demand reduction measures. These measures can save energy in buildings that have air conditioning equipment, and diminish the need to install air conditioning in buildings that do not yet have it.

To advance the adoption of passive and low-energy cooling measures, the Heat Island Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) convened the Cool Building Solutions for a Warming World (CBS) Collaborative. The group’s mission is to 

Identify, assess, develop, and share passive and low-energy building energy efficiency measures that help individuals and cities adapt to extreme heat.

Our collective goals are to 

  • Lower air and radiant temperatures in unconditioned or incompletely conditioned buildings, improving human health and comfort
  • Decrease peak power demand from fully conditioned buildings, reducing grid strain and the likelihood of power failures on extremely hot days
  • Locally improve outdoor comfort—e.g., by shading or otherwise cooling pedestrians

Therefore, we are focused on 

  • Human-scale effects (health, comfort, productivity)
  • Passive building cooling measures, including vegetative and water-based solutions
  • Low-energy building cooling measures
  • Building-scale solutions that link indoor and outdoor spaces

Berkeley Lab created the multi-disciplinary group in autumn 2018. The Collaborative currently has more than 110 research and practitioner members from 15 countries. Its diversity in disciplines, professions, regions, and sectors is key to advance our ambitious goals.

The Collaborative will include structured activities in which subgroups develop a collaborative statement of work, such as a research plan, a communication/outreach plan, or application/design guidelines, to address a specific topic. The Collaborative will exchange information via web meetings and an online collaboration tool. The online tool will also be a repository of key Collaborative information, such as member profiles and resources.

Collaborative members met during summer 2019 to discuss shared interests, research areas, and activities to advance cool building solutions. Members seek to convey the urgency and importance of passive and low-energy cooling measures. To that end, members discussed the need to share what is known now by consolidating best practices by climate, building type, building vintage, and building occupancy. Members recognize that the regional variability of best practices is driven by the aforementioned factors as well as market availability and costs. Members should assess and document co-benefits to further strengthen the case for these cooling measures. Members should also clearly communicate the limitations of cooling measures to assure they are used appropriately. 

Members will develop common metrics, methods, and databases to facilitate international collaboration. Members share the desire to better understand the relationship between indoor heat exposure and human health. Also, members identified the need to expand our alliances to other sectors, such as real estate, industry, insurance, and utilities, and to continue to engage with other disciplines, such as anthropology and biometeorology (study of relationship between weather and living organisms).

Members plan to carry out research to learn how to make building cooling measures attractive to consumers. That is, how can we market health and comfort? Members also need to better understand how passive cooling measures can be combined with heat metrics, such as daily maximum temperature or number of annual heat health events, to inform guidance, standards, and practices for building design and city planning.

Join us! Sign up for the Collaborative here.

Cool Building Solutions workshop 

Berkeley Lab hosted the Collaborative’s first workshop in Berkeley, California on 22 - 23 July 2019. Over the course of the two-day workshop, members shared their research and implementation activities; finalized the Collaborative’s mission, goals, and scope; identified its activities and structure; and discussed barriers and opportunities for advancing its goals. A summary of the workshop outcomes, presentations, and other workshop information can be found at this link.