Global Design with Local Characteristics

By Neil P

Before 1999, siestas were commonplace in the Mexican workplace. During the hottest hours of the afternoon, workers went home to eat, nap, and returned to work when the weather was cooler. But as Latin American countries integrated with the global economy, they adopted the work schedules of their international business partners, working through the heat¾and using air conditioning to feel more comfortable while they did so. From 1985 to 2011, consumption of air conditioning went from 10% of Mexican households to 80%. (In India and China, that number is increasing by 20% a year).

In Afghanistan, traditional dwellings capitalized on native materials and knowledge of local weather to build adobe houses of “thick walls, small windows and natural ventilation…that were cool in summer and warm in winter.” Many of these structures have been replaced with American-built concrete and cinder block constructions that offer the reverse protection (sweltering summers and freezing winters) and require energy-intensive air conditioning and heating that’s not always available due to insecurity and regional disconnectedness. Continue reading