The Cooling Problem – The New York Times
A museum in Rio de Janeiro pulls out of a nearby bay for refreshment. Similarly, but on a larger scale, downtown Toronto has a cooling system that used cool lake water to absorb heat from city buildings. A hospital in rural Bangladesh uses courtyards and canals to create a cooling microclimate. Architects in Singaporethe air-conditioned capital of Southeast Asia, it fishes buildings in a way that allows wind to flow through city blocks and uses vertical gardens to cool high-end hotels and office buildings.
And then there is paint. Researchers compete develop White paint that reflects almost all sunlight. The ones that are still in use now absorb about 15 percent of sunlight and the heat that goes with it.
Attempts to cool urban neighborhoods are not always immediately popular. In Paris, a plan to cool the area around the Eiffel Tower has met fierce opposition because it means knocking down trees, as my colleague Constant Méheut wrote.
Energy-saving innovations are needed now more than ever. Toronto’s cooling system saves enough electricity to power a city of 25,000 for a year, while the Rio Museum’s cooling system uses 50 percent less energy than a conventional system. In fact, a recent United Nations report estimates that a global, coordinated effort to make refrigeration more sustainable and efficient could prevent eight years of global emissions, based on 2018 levels, over four decades.
Making air conditioners better
The Rocky Mountain Institute, a research group whose Colorado office generates more energy than it consumes, runs competition to stimulate innovation on cooling. The two companies that won last year, Daikin and Gree, developed air conditioners that use much less energy.
Why doesn’t every company do that? Electricity standards don’t require it yet, explains Iain Campbell, a refrigeration expert at the Rocky Mountain Institute. In addition, it is more expensive upfront. The prototypes developed by the two companies were two to three times more expensive, Campbell said. “But in 10 years, using these machines would cost you half,” he added. They would simply use less power.