What happens when our air conditioning fails during a heat wave? We close draperies to the sun, deploy fans, open windows at night, and hope for natural breezes to take the edge off.
In that scenario, it's a happy thing if our homes are designed to promote cross-ventilation.
Cross-ventilation was more or less a given before World War II. Mechanical air conditioning was inaccessible to most families, so "passive" cooling was the default. Of course, it wasn't truly passive; windows didn't open themselves. But it was passive in the sense that it used the resources at hand. Air was cooled by natural means, with a minimum of engineering.
For instance, double-hung windows took advantage of air's tendency to move from lower, cooler positions to higher, warmer positions. By opening at the top and bottom, double-hung windows gave the air an easy way to move from coolness to warmth, from low positions to high, into and out of a room.
We think cross ventilation is worth a conversation for anyone who's choosing a house plan to build. These seventeen plans are especially well suited to make the most of airflow's natural cooling effect.
Plans Under 800 Square Feet
The diminutive Starlet Studio wraps all of the essentials in a Craftsman-style package. The living area includes windows on three sides for easy cross-ventilation and views.
The Beechwood Cove gives you options on warm days. It offers both indoor and outdoor living and dining areas with its full-width porch.
If you're going to build only one bedroom, why not make it roomy and beautiful? The Poplar Cove house plan by Jeremy Sommer adds a comfortable front porch to the plentiful opportunities for cross-ventilation in this home.
The Compact Cottage by Historic Shed comes in three different roof types, with porch styles to match. Its open plan promotes good airflow, while its compact dimensions (just 16' x 30') allow it to catch the breezes on small lots.
Open the side door to the screened porch and let the shade cool the air on its way in. The extra outdoor living area makes the Stuart Duplex feel roomier than its size would suggest.
Plans from 800 to 1,600 Square Feet
A shallow lot can still fit a porch with the handsome Maple Court cottage by Sommer Design Studios.
Good airflow will keep the whole family comfortable in the three-bedroom Evening Rose cottage by Bruce B. Tolar.
The San Andros by Geoffrey Mouen will make the most of coastal breezes, with its single-room width and windows in all directions.
A two-story porch and open floor plan give the Eastport a sunny disposition and excellent prospects for both porch-sitting and cross ventilation. By Sommer Design Studios.
Geoffrey Mouen's Anson Lane takes its cues from the Charleston "single house" — a building type that's traditionally one room deep and ideal for promoting airflow. It's charming, too!
Sommer Design Studios created the Westport for a waterfront community, with windows on three sides of almost every room. Perfect for views and for naturally cooling the home.
The Uptown Live-Work by Artifex isn't going to let the cottages have all the fun. One room wide, with windows on all sides —the perfect setup for airflow and a very short commute downstairs to your office.
Plans over 1,600 Square Feet
The St. Helena's elegant two-story porch gives forward-facing rooms an extra advantage. Just add rocking chairs. By Geoffrey Mouen Architect.
Windows on three sides of each principal room, plus a wrap-around porch to cool the breezes on their way in. Bruce B. Tolar's Rose Garden is ready to shade its residents from the dog days of summer.
Windows on both sides of the living room let the breezes flow right through. The principal rooms of the Bayport have openings on three sides — a bonanza for cross ventilation. By Sommer Design Studios.
Double-height porch in front. Open plan downstairs. Windows on at least two sides of the principal rooms. The Lakeport offers cross ventilation and porch-sitting in the cool of the evening. By Sommer Design Studios.