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Here’s a trend that might be considered worth trying especially in these tight financial times. Build smaller homes with lots of cross current provided by well insulated and strategically placed windows and well insulated walls. You’d be surprised at how effective this is in home cooling.
Unfortunately we are not all able to build our houses in the wooded mountains! Our house also was constructed with many windows and the ability to create a cross breeze for cooling. It works great until end of July or first of August, then we need a little help to stay cool.
I am interpreting your question a bit differently--I am reading it that you are asking if contemporary people are using ancient (non-chemical, non-manufactured) methods to cool their homes. A bit different slant, but I hope one that adds to the conversation.
Many homes are now constructed with an eye toward natural light and heat as well as cooling. My own home, for example, is built in a wooded area in the mountains and I have no need for air conditioning other than to open my sliding glass door to the screen and leave the screened front door open.
The way that my home is built allows for the natural breeze pattern to flow from my deck screened door all the way through to the front door, creating a natural air conditioning effect. Opening the screened windows upstairs provides the same type of natural cooling.
No doubt many cultures used slaves or servants to fan the wealthier people. Houses were often built with large porches for use on hot days, and many homes were constructed to face a direction preferential to sunshine or cool winds.
Humans also have been building domiciles for centuries which are naturally cooler: making caves into homes (there are quite extravagant ones in Spain even today which require no artificial air conditioning), building sod houses, or even constructing underground homes. Additionally, as Post #3 states, humans used water (especially from higher elevations to cool their homes). Mad King Ludwig from Bavaria began building his extravagant Neuschwanstein Castle in the mid-1800s and used mountain water flowing downwards to provide naturally cold water and coolness to the castle when needed.
People also built so that buildings took advantage of cross-breezes. Openings/windows were in areas such that wind would tend to flow through. This is true right up to the time that airconditioning became prevalent--look at apartment buildings built prior to AC, and you will see that they are built to facilitate breezes flowing through.
The Romans were adjusting the temperature from their homes, by building channels through their houses walls, through which ,in summer, run cold water.
The first air conditioning, for large-scale using, was designed in 1902. Willis Carrier, an American entrepreneur, is the author of this invention. His company was producing air conditioning solutions for industry.
Ancient buildings were equipped with air traps, arched roofs, water reservoirs with arched domes and ice stores for the preservation of ice. The operation of modern coolers is similar to the old air traps which were built at the entrances of homes over underground water reservoirs or ponds built inside the house.
Lofty walls, narrow and dry streets, highly elevated air traps, big water reservoirs and arched roofed chambers, are the outstanding features of ancient cooling systems.
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