As much of the East Coast faces 100-degree temperatures this week, the Washington Post took an interesting look at what mechanical air conditioning is doing to the environment.
Because most new houses and commercial buildings don't use passive cooling strategies, they rely heavily on HVAC systems to cool the interiors, which contributes to carbon and global warming, says Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World.
Once cooling technology became more efficient and affordable after World War II, it began transforming the architecture of cities and suburbs. It ushered in the glass office-block design with deep, cheap-to-build interior spaces that never could have been comfortable in the summer without artificial cooling. House and apartment builders could dispense with expensive warm-weather features such as porches, large eaves, high ceilings, cross-ventilated designs, transom windows, windows that open and attic fans. That made homes more widely affordable, but buyers usually ended up living in what Fortune magazine called a “TV-equipped hotbox” that was livable in the summer only with air conditioning.