A catalog of links on the subject of 'healthy' and non-toxic housing.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Auroville Earth Unit
The Aurovile Earth Unit is a research and education facility established by the Auroville religious communty in Southern India. This facility performs some of the most sophisticted earth constuction engineering and archiectural design in the world and is responsible for Auroville's oustanding array of earthen archiecture. Thier web site is an excellent source of information on the subject and features numerous photographs of their research projects and the many remarkable buildings of Auroville.
Wonderful Wombs - Healthy Heating
Wonderful Wombs is a blog site on the subject of radiant floor heating and the related but newer technoogy of radiant tube air conditioning. It's parent site is Healthy Heating which showcases information on the radiant HVAC subject.
Radiant floor heating is actually an ancient technology whose roots lay in the 'hypocaust' heating invented by the ancient Romans. It first came into use in its modern fluid tube form (often called 'hydronic heating') early in the 20th century and was frequently featured in homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the many Modernist designers. It remains one of the preferred heating technologies among architects today. But despite this heritage, radiant heating has seen limited acceptance among builders in the US due to a basic lack of knowledge. It is perpetually percieved as 'new', 'futuristic', or 'high-tech' despite a nearly 100 year history of use in this country. But in recent years it has seen a steadily growing acceptance, especially in the parts of the country better suited to slab foundations.
Radiant floor heating is one of the preferred heating technologies for non-toxic housing because it reduces the need for ductwork which has a tendancy to accumulate dusts and fungus. It dosen't, of course, eliminate the need for proper ventilation in a home but ductwork for that can be greatly reduced or sometimes completely eliminated when it need not be routed through a furnace. Radiant heating also uses electric water heating systems and can easily integrate with solar water heaters, which eliminates the need for oil and gas combustion systems that are a source of indoor pollution. Highly efficient compared to other heating technologies, radiant floor heating may make electric heating much more practical in areas where electric power may exceed the cost of gas or oil power. And in terms of basic comfort, most users consider it superior to everything else. Drafts and uneven heating are virtually eliminated, operation is totally silent, and the human sense of comfortable warmth quite good at much lower average heating temperatures, thus further saving energy.
Radiant air conditioning (also called 'chilled beam' systems) is a much more recent technology which basically reverses the operation of the radiant heating system using cooling tubes in a ceiling to absorb heat discharged by a heat pump similar to that of a central air conditioning unit or 'ductless' AC system. First appearing in systems designed for the suspended ceiling frames of commercial and office buildings, it suffered from complications in collecting and elliminating condensation on the overhead tubing. But more recent systems have gone far in reducing or eliminating that problem. Home use of this technology seems to still be limited, possibly because of the need for thick suspended ceiling spaces to accommodate equipment not yet adapted in scale to residential use.