The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture: Air, Comfort and Climate (Paperback) book cover

The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture

Air, Comfort and Climate

By C. Alan Short

© 2017 – Routledge

378 pages

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pub: 2017-01-20
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About the Book

The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture challenges the modern practice of sealing up and mechanically cooling public scaled buildings in whichever climate and environment they are located. This book unravels the extremely complex history of understanding and perception of air, bad air, miasmas, airborne pathogens, beneficial thermal conditions, ideal climates and climate determinism. It uncovers inventive and entirely viable attempts to design large buildings, hospitals, theatres and academic buildings through the 19th and early 20th centuries, which use the configuration of the building itself and a shrewd understanding of the natural physics of airflow and fluid dynamics to make good, comfortable interior spaces. In exhuming these ideas and reinforcing them with contemporary scientific insight, the book proposes a recovery of the lost art and science of making naturally conditioned buildings.


"This is really wonderful work. This unique and remarkable synthesis of three decades’ unrivaled innovation rediscovers, refines, and modernizes the ancient art of natural ventilation. It masterfully teaches how to make our buildings airy, healthful, and delightful, not by brute force but by sensitive and sensible design. All who breathe for our living will be forever in Professor Short’s debt. "

Amory B. Lovins, Hon AIA, Co-founder and chief scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

"By re-connecting architecture to the provision of thermal comfort, The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture: Air, Comfort and Climate offers valuable strategic direction on avoiding energy-intensive air-conditioning in the face of increasing urban temperatures. Alan Short, an accomplished researcher and practitioner, positions his remarkable portfolio of naturally conditioned buildings within a rich historical context, giving the book appeal beyond those directly involved with architectural education and practice. Giving architectural form meaningful environmental intent, learning from continual experimentation and offering frank accounts of success and failure, are seldom as well documented or made accessible as in this insightful book."

Raymond J. Cole, Professor of Architecture, University of British Columbia, Canada

"A revolutionary and challenging examination of the history and the present state of building design and the relationship to the environment and most importantly, the people who reside inside. A new view is offered of "modern determinism" and the issues of climate, weather and air and how they should be reconsidered, not just as "green" or "style" but as a social practice. Do we really need all glass and air conditioners? Illuminated in wonderful detail is a new understanding of the past and our present problems and a view of a way forward. Offered is a new thinking about design and the need for change."

Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia

"This well structured book is easy to read and, instead of concentrating large chunks on individual case studies, the author brings them in when relevant. The flexible chapter structure allows the author to explore his specific interest in what are arguably some of the most challenging building types for natural ventilation and passive design – multi-storey offices in urban locations, theatres, hospitals and laboratories – while interspersing informative historical, scientific and architectural practice facts, making for a detailed and engaging narrative."

RIBA Journal, March 2017

Table of Contents

1. How did Architecture alone make the weather within until the reliance on ‘artificial weather’? 2. Passive cooling in Mediterranean climates 3. Temperate climates: low energy public buildings 4. Natural Theatre environments 5. Passive and hybrid hospital buildings 6. Passive design in the more intense environment of the Urban Heat Island 7. Continental climates 8. Adaptation of the existing building stock

About the Author

C. Alan Short was educated at Trinity College Cambridge and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He has been the Professor of Architecture at the University of Cambridge since 2001 and his work focuses on the design of sustainable buildings. He also designs buildings, one of very few architects in the UK deeply involved in Higher Education and Research, maintaining Short & Associates Architects as a vehicle for putting research concepts into practice.

About the Series

Building Research and Information

BUILDING RESEARCH & INFORMATION (BRI) is a leading international refereed journal focussed on buildings and their supporting systems. Unique to BRI is a focus on a holistic, transdisciplinary approach to buildings and the complexity of issues involving the built environment with other systems over the course of their life. In order to build upon the messages of the Journal, Earthscan from Routledge is launching a new book series under the same editorship of Richard Lorch. The book series shares similar aims and scope to the Journal but will allow for an even deeper discussion around the issues raised, together with more practical material.

In particular the new series is looking to explore the linkages between the built, natural, social and economic environments, with an emphasis on the interactions between theory, policy and practice. Also impacts on ecologies, resources (water, energy, air, materials, building stocks, etc.), sustainable development (social, economic, environmental and natural capitals) and climate change (mitigation and adaptation) will be in scope. As with the Journal the performance, impacts, assessment, contributions, improvement and value of buildings, building stocks and related systems will also be included.

New interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches need an international forum for information and discussion. BRI has followed this evolution and this new book series will aim to reflect that same breadth of subject matter and contributions. We will also strive for the same levels of editorial innovation and feedback that have made the Journal so popular.

If you wish to contribute to the series then contact either the series Editor , Richard Lorch at or the Commissioning Editor, Ed Needle with a short note about your ideas.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Design, Drafting, Drawing & Presentation
ARCHITECTURE / History / General
ARCHITECTURE / Individual Architects & Firms / General
ARCHITECTURE / Sustainability & Green Design
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Construction / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Construction / Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning