13 Jul

Wolfgang Kessling: How to air-condition outdoor spaces

It’s quite interesting how TED Talks subject matter overlap.  Sometimes it is a purposeful, useful interaction, and sometimes its pure chance.  In this particular case, it’s pure chance.

But the idea of air conditioning the outdoors isn’t anything new.  Any one who has gone to Vegas must have walked from hotel to hotel, where there is blazing sun and hot temperatures and its offset by the open air conditioned doors of the casinos. 

How to air condition the outdoor spaces!  Link below.

Date Filmed: April 2012

 Length: 11 minutes, 36 seconds

Total Views so far: 178,018  (One would think this number would be higher, given how damn hot its been this summer)

One Sentence Summary: “It’s the humans that give off heat, so let them perceive its cool.  Oh yeah, it’s not really outside.”

Let’s go on a thought experiment.  Let’s pretend that global warming is not just real but its also unavoidable.  What’s better?  To walk around with private suncoats and specialized private air conditioners or for there to be some new design structure towards city centers themselves? 

Well, obviously letting people fend for themselves is a heck of a lot cheaper, but it’s just not as ‘modern’.  Let’s make a bunch of fancy walkways / open area concepts instead!

If it ever comes down to being outside = ahhh my burning face, then it would make a great deal of sense to start rebuilding various areas to become more hospitable for people to wander about on.   The hypothetical ‘cool environment’ Kessling presents might actually be a possible snapshot of our future outdoor design. 

Kessling gives an interesting list of locations beforehand.  All of them are stadiums, and with each example he gives a rating of whether or not the people in attendance were comfortable versus the ambient weather at the time.  Sometimes it required the weather to be nice before the audience felt comfortable and sometimes it didn’t matter, and people were uncomfortable no matter what.  The big ‘wtf’ point that he makes, is that people will be sitting at the same temperature in a whole series of situations and feel different levels of comfort.

It shows he did his homework, and has an understanding of what makes people comfortable.  In previous years, when friends complained of how hot the weather is, I would instruct them to go out and buy a fan.  They’d retort that the fan would only push ‘hot air around’ and that there would be little change in comfort.  (I later proved this opinion wrong, but it took multiple fans and creation of an artificial wind tunnel which is havoc with paper and, apparently, pizza toppings)

Now the definition of outdoor space needs to be taken into account here, if a person is covered from all angles, is that person still outside? 

Definition of Out Doors:

1) The open air

2) An area away from human settlements.

Interestingly enough, the concept of building a football stadium in the middle of a desert fits both of these criteria.  *shakes fist, they got lucky*  However, I’m going to be a jerk and say that I’m not sold that this is not actually air conditioning the outdoors. 

Although it is unlikely, we need a solution for ANY location without spending a bajillion dollars on over powered air conditioning (see Vegas) or building an actual stadium.

Keeping the ground level cool is a very difficult concept and Kessling discusses the use of water pipes to control that temperature.  I wonder if there is a better way.  Then again, I wonder if Dean Kamen will fully complete the Stirling engine.

The Stirling engine (aka Water based engine):

I bring it up, because this talk of cold water to hot ground = hot water, and if we bring that water deep to cold ground, then there is something like a natural Stirling engine happening.  Of course, the temperatures are not in the right zones and etc, but hot on top / cold below is what’s triggering this memory more.

What caught me off guard

Is that a plane at 7:10?  Wait, is Kessling selling this?  Yes, yes he is.

Upon looking at the company website (which starts off in German, but has an English translation), I can see that Kessling is immediately putting his money where his mouth is.  This firm, Transsolar, is a climate engineering firm. 

That sounds like really something, a climate engineering firm, it sounds like the beginning towards some kind of global weather control system.  However, this isn’t the case, they aren’t out to control weather rather it’s more taking advantage of one’s environment to help create an artificial climate within those confines.

There’s some really pretty architecture pictures as well.  (The Outdoor Comfort Calculator is there, but to be honest it is a pointless tool for ‘me’, as I don’t pay that much attention weather)

What’s next?

There was a severe lack of ice cream in this talk.  If it’s a hot day, eat ice cream.  If it’s evening and you don’t need to drive anywhere, then it’s time for a couple beers too. 

If I was giving this TED Talk, I’d say “How to air condition outdoor spaces?” and then crack open a few cold ones.  The audience wouldn’t have time to applause because there would be additional cold ones being passed around to everyone. 

Afterwards, beach party and doing the monkey.

But seriously, I hope this technology / paradigm of outdoor climate control continues.  Support this!


– updated every Friday


Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized



4 responses to “Wolfgang Kessling: How to air-condition outdoor spaces

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