Animals are engineers
Nature is really surprising! Some animals are so creative and skillful that they even serve as an inspiration for engineers when designing and constructing.
Animals as environmental engineers
All living creatures are using some kind of shelters to protect themselves from predators. And also to keep them safe inside their shelters.
- Beavers and their lodges are usually in upper areas in rivers and made of mud, stones and branches, with underground entrances.
- Spider species makes different types of web with varying functions, with high strength and resistance, and also being biodegrable.
Animals as ventilation engineers
Did you know that probably the first and most robust ventilation designs may be credited to the builders of the insect world.
- Bee colonies use wing power to regulate pollutants and airflows in their hives.
- Termites build tall mounds which are highly engineered to use wind-driven ventilation airflow and thermal mass to maintain comfort.
The firsts for improving the indoor climate
Ventus! Ventilatio! Ventilation!
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Important people in the history of ventilation
John Griscom (1774-1852)
A New York surgeon who vividly described the need for fresh air and pointed out bedrooms and dormitories as the worst where: 'deficient ventilation ...(is) more fatal than all other causes put together'.
Max Joseph von Pettenkofer (1818-1901)
The first professor in hygiene in Munich — noted that the unpleasant sensations of stale air were not due merely to warmth or humidity or CO2 or oxygen deficiency, but rather to the presence of trace quantities of organic material exhaled from the skin and the lungs.
He stated that 'bad' indoor air did not necessarily make people sick but that such air weakened the human resistance against agents causing illness. Pettenkofer stated that air was not fit for breathing if the CO2 concentration (with people as the source) was above 1,000 ppm and that good indoor air in rooms where people stay for a long time should not exceed 700 ppm, in order to keep the people comfortable.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Possibly the most complete overview of the relationship between indoor environment health had Florence Nightingale. She was 'nurse & structural engineer'.
Nightingale wrote the first modern handbook for the nursing of sick 'Notes on Nursing, What It Is, and What It Is Not'. In her foreword she wrote that her book was meant as 'tips for women who are personally responsible for the health of others'.
Elias Heyman (1829–1889)
The first Swedish professor in hygiene at the Karolinska Institute, made an extensive study in Stockholm of schools with different ventilation systems, including measurements of CO2.
In schools without any measures for ventilation he measured concentrations of CO2 up to and over 5,000 ppm, while in schools with some kind of ventilation, he typically measured maximum concentrations of between 1,500 and 3,000 ppm.
Willis Carrier (1876–1950)
Known as the inventor (or father) of modern air-conditioning. Carrier designed his first system in 1902 to control temperature and humidity in a printing plant in Brooklyn (New York, USA).
Since then, air-conditioning has been defined as a system that must have four basic functions: temperature regulation, humidity control, air circulation and/or ventilation and air purification (filtration).
Povl Ole Fanger (1934–2006)
A well-known and influential researcher in the 1960s working in the field of thermal comfort. Fanger focused on the relationship between the physical parameters of the environment, the physiological parameters of people and the perception of comfort expressed by people themselves.
In 1970, he published his dissertation 'Thermal Comfort' in which he defined a new discipline: the study of the condition of comfort and well-being in indoor environments. The conceptual leap introduced by Fanger, compared to previous studies, is the introduction of the judgment scale by people themselves.
Ventilation requirements within a historical context
Historically, humans always focused on living in good conditions — where they felt safe and comfortable, and could lead rather good and healthy lives.
- The first quantitative ventilation recommendation was made by Tregold in 1836, and focussed primarily on the dilution of carbon dioxide. Over the next half century, the steady rise of ventilation recommendations was put in place due to the need to reduce contagions (mostly tuberculosis).
- After the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, improvements in hygiene had reduced the need for high ventilation rates, and the rationale shifted towards comfort, however not on reducing exposure to toxic pollutants.
- The energy crisis in the last century shifted the focus even more on energy consumption — but only for short period because of the emergence of building related ilnesses.
- At the 21st century, the focus has turned again towards health, and even extended towards well-being and sustainability.
Throughout history, the ventilation rates have changed from around 2.5 to nearly 30 l/s per person — which is by a factor of 15.
Image source: Li, 2013.
Note: Image was adapted.
More about history
If you are interested in more knowledge related to history, here are some interesting reading for you:
- Indoor climate — From past to present
- Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) — How it all began...
- Sick building syndrome (SBS) — Concept from 1983 by the WHO
- Historical development of the length of working days from the 1880s until today
- Air pollution — Past, present and future
- Daylight in history — From ancient Rome to Florence Nightingale