Mobile Menu

Water may be key to countering summer heat in buildings

January 12, 2016

As the world’s climate heats up, buildings in tomorrow’s cities will need innovative solutions to keep cool.

Channeling streams of water on a building’s skin or spraying a water mist around a structure could be unique ways to solve this issue with minimal use of energy. A team of Princeton researchers spanning two engineering departments and architecture is exploring the cooling effect of water on architecture — from small-scale prototypes to full-size structures.

“Urban surfaces are dry and dark. They absorb a lot of heat,” said Elie Bou-Zeid, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. In a series of studies, Bou-Zeid found that spraying water on buildings could dramatically cool the surface temperature and may combat the urban heat island effect that makes cities warmer than rural areas. Having a wall with a water-flowing feature, which Bou-Zeid calls evaporative walls, or “e-walls,” would be a good alternative to green walls and roofs, which serve much the same purpose but require soil and frequent maintenance.