Improving the built environment of urban poor to achieve thermal comfort –
This project is reviving ancient traditions to promote simple technologies in modern construction
for creating cooler indoor spaces. “Improving the
built environment of urban poor to achieve thermal comfort” works with government
partners to mainstream cool roofing and passive ventilation in city buildings. The initiative
improves living and working conditions for urban poor while reducing use of energy on
- Aim for cooling technologies to be integrated in 1.5 million new houses
- Reduction of energy needed for cooling would reduce 5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
In poor settlements and slums resulting from India’s rapid urban expansion, houses are densely
clustered and have mostly tin sheet, asbestos or thin concrete roofs without sufficient ventilation. This
makes it extremely hot inside in warm months, especially in sultry regions.
Persistent heat exposure has numerous negative health effects, and can aggravate chronic disease. Heat also
increases ground-level ozone concentrations, which is directly linked to respiratory disease. High indoor
temperatures lead to increased demand for electricity, and thus use of more fossil fuels for cooling. The
urban heat island effect has also contributed to larger scale temperature increases in such cities.
This project is promoting simple technologies to reduce indoor temperatures. Whitewashing, for example, can
reduce indoor temperatures by 2 to 5 °Celsius, resulting in significantly less cooling required.
Passive ventilation systems rely on the differing pressure and buoyancy of warm air to push it out of a
building. This is the concept behind traditional Iranian wind catcher towers or groundwater tunnels –
which can be revived in modern urban architecture.
The initiative targets the 20 to 40 per cent of population living in poor areas of India’s cities
Indore and Surat, and includes a national competition to tap traditional and modern methods for cooling
buildings. The effort will also train masons and implement cool roofing at demonstration sites in both
cities, and will be accompanied by an awareness campaign. Finally, this project will try to integrate cool
roofing technologies into governmental urban renewal housing schemes for the poor.
Helping the planet
Reducing indoor temperatures will decrease demand for air conditioning and fans, lowering energy use and
thus dependency on fossil fuel. Passive ventilation and cool roofs also decrease air pollution and can help
ameliorate the urban heat island effect.
People in poor neighborhoods with cool roofing will enjoy more comfortable indoor temperatures. This
improves their quality of life and health. Lower-income workers in offices, factories, and commercial
buildings will also benefit from the technologies. Working under more comfortable temperatures could also
increase their productivity, enhancing their ability to make money.
This project will set up replicable models as well as establish valuable lessons, enabling potential growth
in other cities across India. If integrated into government housing schemes, the cooling efforts could be
implemented at a regional scale.
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