I recently photographed a new housing development on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. You can see it on Google Earth. The wind tower design originates from Persia. The earliest examples of wind towers, used for cooling houses, in the United Arab Emirates can be seen in a small area known as Bastakiya, by the creek in Dubai. These buildings were built by Persian traders about 100 years ago after Sheikh Maktoum Bin Hasher Al Maktoum became the first of the Dubai Sheikhs to create a tax free trade zone, the basis of a business model still employed by the rulers of Dubai to this day.
The wind tower (see how wind towers work here) offered domestic environmental control in one of a number of ways. It would catch and divert any breeze down into the house, or in windless conditions it would operate as a solar chimney, creating an upward draft of hot air and sucking in cooler air from below.
With the addition of wetted cloths or other evaporation techniques this method could also create a cooling effect.
But the wind tower has now been relegated to a role as a decorative feature, embellishing concrete box housing with a little traditional style.
The sad reality is that these glazed wind towers, if used as functioning rooms, will certainly be increasing these houses’ energy consumption by further burdening the electrical air conditioning system.
An ironic anachronism, surely?
Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff.
Google Earth coordinates are at 24° 29′ 58.77″N 54° 36′ 05.47″E.