Home air-conditioning units have been available to the wealthy , but they didn't reach the middle class until the post-World War II economic boom, when they became standard in suburban developments.
That wasn't that long ago, which begs the question, especially in the , how on earth did our predecessors deal with ?
recently conducted its own investigation into the matter and found that the answer lies in the common architecture exemplified by houses throughout the South, a region known for its heat and humidity. Design elements such as sleeping porches, roof cupolas, and "shotgun" and "dogtrot" floor plans helped maximize air circulation, according to Jonathan Hogg, an associate at Ferguson & Shamamian Architects. For example:
Named for the breezeway between two house sections where a dog could walk through, this design was a common staple on Southern plantations during the 1800s, often used for the overseer's house. The floor plan allows both sides of a room access to fresh air, according to Curbed, while the porch shields windows from too much sunlight and allows them to be kept open during rain showers.
Once popular in Louisiana, the shotgun house is characterized by its narrow width, which allows lined-up windows and doors access to cross-ventilation. Again, the porch provides crucial shade from the sun and protection from the rain so that windows can stay open during showers.
The Sleeping Porch
"Sleeping porches are often found on houses by bodies of water," said Hogg. "The principle behind it was that the air was so pleasant in the evenings, that people would want to sleep in a protected space outside." Pictured above: the sleeping porch at Betsy and Tim Williams's .
An 1891 house in Florida known as The Barnacle (pictured above) features a cupola, or small dome, on its roof, which functions as a ventilator. According to Curbed, the idea was that hot air, which rises, would exit through the roof, while fresh air would enter through the tall windows and doors that were shielded from the sun by a wraparound porch.
"The idea of cooling a house in hot climates is nothing new — there are traces of cooling even in ancient Egypt through the use of courtyards to promote air flow through buildings," said Hogg. "Providing air circulation is simply essential to summertime relief."