The Historic city of Yazd in Iran, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is an outstanding example of how Ancient Civilizations implemented Nature Based Solutions in their Architecture.
Before fossil-fuel-powered air-conditioning was available, people living in harsh climates had nothing but natural means to control the interior temperature. Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, the city has developed one of the world's most innovative nature-based air-conditioning systems. Their system was so well engineered that it is still working today after thousands of years.
SO HOW DOES IT WORK?
Wind Towers, also known as Wind Cathers or Badgir (in Farsi), were engineered to catch the cool breeze from higher altitudes. The towers are connected to an underground ventilation network, where the air is cooled down naturally to comfortable indoor temperatures before entering the buildings. This is possible because the temperatures under the ground are much lower than above ground.
The city is also known for having a large network of qanats, which are underground channels that transfer water from a well to the surface. The windcatchers and qanats often worked together to create an amplified cooling effect.
Windcatchers work in one of three ways. The most common way is to cool the inside of a building. The tower has openings that face the wind and “catch” it, creating airflow inside the structure. When used in combination with a qanat, air is drawn down into the qanat tunnel and comes in contact with the cooler earth and cold water. The cooled air is drawn up through the windcatcher, which faces away from the prevailing wind—not only creating airflow, but also cooling the air.
In a windless environment, windcatchers operate like a solar chimney, allowing hot air, which is lighter, to flow upwards and escape out the top of the tower. Combined with thick adobe walls, windcatchers are surprisingly effective and able to chill lower-level spaces. Windcatchers can still be found throughout Iran and in several other countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
This system operated so well that it later evolved to produce and store ice in the desert without consuming energy.
Yazd is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement which is representative of the interaction of man and nature. One of the fundamental reasons why the city was so well engineered was the Persians dedication to nature and its intelligence. Special temples were constructed just for worshiping elements of nature.
To innovate with nature to the level of Ancient Civilizations, it is fundamental that one understands nature beyond just its physical dimension.