Natural air conditioning with Earth, Wind & Fire presents opportunities for vacant office buildings

News - 26 January 2016 - Roy Meijer

The so-called Earth, Wind & Fire concept for the natural ventilation of buildings offers good opportunities for Dutch office buildings according to Peter Swier, who is graduating on this topic at TU Delft on Thursday, 28 January.  

Architects and engineers

In his graduation research, Peter Swier focused on the Earth, Wind & Fire concept (EWF), a technology that can help transform offices into an attractive, energy-efficient, healthy, pleasant and productive working environment.  This can be achieved by realising air conditioning in buildings by means of natural methods, without mechanical ventilation.
Swier, an architecture student, looked specifically at the opportunities EWF presents for refurbishing vacant office buildings in the Netherlands. Among other things, Swier analysed around 100 projects conducted by master students on EWF. After this he came up with an extensive model for the practical application of Earth, Wind & Fire, with a description of the possibilities and limitations of this innovative concept. Swier then tested the results in a case study for the implementation of the Earth, Wind & Fire concept, in which a virtual renovation of Heerlen city hall was used as an entry for the International Building Exhibition (IBA).
'My graduation research can be seen as a practical EWF manual', Peter Swier explains. 'It shows the huge potential of EWF to become an architectural solution to bridge the gap between architects and engineers.' Focus in this project was on Intecture: the Integration of Technology in Architecture.

One of the models made bij Swiers during his graduation


No mechanical ventilation

It is possible for buildings to have air conditioning using completely natural methods, without mechanical ventilation. Benjamin Bronsema already established this in 2013, when the 78 year old obtained his doctorate in the subject at TU Delft. Bronsema is the creator and main promotor of the Earth, Wind & Fire concept, and also one of Peter Swier's supervisors.
In short, EWF utilises cascading water, sun and wind. The system consists of three main parts: the Ventec Roof, the Climate Cascade and the Solar Chimney. The Ventec Roof draws in fresh air and expels stale air through the use of positive and negative wind pressures. Air is drawn in via the Climate Cascade and expelled via the Solar Chimney. The chimney heats ventilation air with heat captured from incoming sunlight. Initiation of the air flow takes place in the Climate Cascade. This is a structural shaft into which water drops are sprayed from above and with which the air can be cooled or heated.

A healthier indoor climate

Besides improving the energy and cost efficiency of buildings, Earth, Wind & Fire can also contribute to a more natural and healthier indoor climate, Bronsema explains. Circulating air through buildings contributes to the spreading of bacteria. Air filters are often a source of infection. According to Bronsema, his system ensures that nature can 'inhabit' the building by architectural means.

Air conditioning with wind, sun and water: Ben Bronsema at TEDxDelft

Hotel Breeze

The next important step for the EWF concept is also coming soon. Theoretically it has already been established in the laboratory that the concept works. But for real proof, a concrete practical application is needed - and that's coming soon in Amsterdam. There, Dutch Green Company, in collaboration with TU Delft and TU Eindhoven, is currently developing the first (nearly) energy neutral hotel in the world: Breeze (webpage in Dutch). The hotel will be largely energy self-sufficient, with Earth, Wind & Fire playing a crucial role. The Breeze Hotel with EWF concept, which should be ready in 2017, is expected to be the first energy neutral hotel in the world.


More information
Thesis: EFW design manual: refurbishing structurally vacant office buildings into architectural attractive, low energy working environments

Contact Peter Swier:  
Roy Meijer, Science Information Officer TU Delft, +31 15 278 1751, +31 6 140 15 008,   

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