by Zohra KhanDec 14, 2019
The Egyptians fanned porous jars of water to cool air, the Romans hung wet materials on the doors of their houses or tents, Indians sprayed khas water on sheets of cloth and hung them on their windows, while the wealthy constructed an artificial channel carrying water along the walls of their houses to reduce the temperature in extreme conditions. These ideas from the past were analysed by Ant Studio to create an energy efficient solution to today’s problems of global warming, heat and air pollution.
The Delhi-based studio has designed a unique air cooling design solution, that is being showcased at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019 in Goa (December 15-22). This system uses traditional methods coupled with modern technology to fight the problem of global warming through little steps. Inspired by the structure of a densely packed group of cells within a beehive, the coolant can be an optimum solution to the CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) created by air conditioners, which affects the earth’s protective ozone layer, and thereby lead to further climate change. The product called ‘CoolAnt Coral’ is an air coolant that neither uses any electricity nor produces harmful gases, can be installed in open and semi-open spaces, and can further be integrated in building façades and interior spaces.
In India and many other countries, traditionally and even today, earthen pots are used to cool water. The water inside the pots cools down due to the porous nature of baked terracotta. Ant Studio, however, created an innovative system using this concept of active-direct evaporative cooling in reverse order. The air that passes through the earthenware soaked in water automatically reduces the temperature, thus acting as a natural air coolant.
The newly conceived and built design of ‘CoolAnt Coral’ being exhibited at the Serendipity Arts Festival is a beehive structure with cylindrical pots forming the desired pattern to maximise the cooling effect. Recycled water at room temperature is allowed to run on the surface of the cylinders, cooling the hot air passing through the multiple terracotta cones. The solution is not only energy efficient, but also cost-effective and a pleasing appearance as a replacement for diesel generators in the backyards of our houses.
‘CoolAnt Coral’ as a solution not only provides passive cooling, but also enhances the air quality around the space. It is made of multiple terracotta cones inspired by the natural system to gradually lower the air temperature through the process of evaporation. It offers itself to be an alternative to the existing air-conditioning systems, and reduce the load on energy.
Talking about the air purification system of these installations, the founder and principal architect of Ant Studio, Monish Siripurapu, says, “Due to the cones being wet, the purification happens at multiple levels. We are trying to filter out the heavy particles, so in a way the entire installation acts like an air scrubber. The water droplets falling on and inside the system purifies the air passing through.”
The repetitive pouring of water on the terracotta creates a biofilm and moss formation. Siripurapu further adds, “Now this is the biggest thing that we are trying to explore wherein natural elements like moss and biofilm can actually absorb 10 times the volume of the carbon in the environment.” They are also trying to further develop a mechanism where they cultivate the biofilm formation, where the carbon particles get sucked in by the moss.
The Ant Studio is also planning to add more filters to appear in between the cones. The ones that can absorb smaller-sized particles and also pollutant and nitrogen-based gases from the air. “There is a filter that will come in, we are collaborating with a UK-based company for a filter that can absorb the smog particles and other very tiny gases. This will soon be developed once we are back in Delhi,” explains Siripurapu.
Additionally, the studio aims to support and revive the dying craft of pottery by engaging the artisans to build terracotta cones. The studio’s earlier versions of the coolant include products installed at a factory in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, while the product Beehive has been installed at greenhouses in western state Gujarat in India, at tea processing fermentation plants in northeastern Assam and cattle sheds in Indian cities Mathura and Vijayawada.
From modern city dwellers to luxury hotels who seek aesthetics and living standards that match their surroundings, unglazed porous terracotta is being explored by one and all as per their taste and imagination. Beyond the obvious thermal and purification comfort, a honeycomb structure like Beehive leverages terracotta tubes and water as a low-energy air purification solution. It is also an olfactory stimulation of petrichor, the sound of a brook babbling over stones, presenting an appearance of esoteric and ethnic beauty.
CoolAnt Coral by Ant Studio was presented at Look Outside This House, curated by Sudarshan Shetty at Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019.
Read more from the series:
The Biomaterial Revolution: Green Charcoal by Shreyas More and Meenal Sutaria
Breathing lungs for Delhi: Aũra towers and drones by Studio Symbiosis
Designing breathable cities: Smog Free Project by Daan Roosegaarde
Turning rice straw into resource:'Better Air Now' by IKEA
Recycling air pollution into inks: AIR-INK by Graviky Labs