The Persians invented air conditioning as early as 500 A.D.

The Persians cooled the air with a ventilation system called “wind towers,” which were structures attached to the top of buildings. The structure, attached to the roof of the building, drew cold air downward, pushing the warmer air upward and outward.

Scholars debate whether the Persians or Egyptians were the first to develop the wind tower, but the evidence favors the Persians because it predates the Achaemenid period.

A ventilation system works about the same as a modern air conditioning system.

A wind trap is an architectural element that has long been used to provide natural ventilation in buildings. For thousands of years, wind traps have served as a kind of “air conditioner” for Middle Easterners.

Wind traps can be seen in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are influenced by traditional Persian architecture.

Centuries of refinements and adaptations to withstand harsh climatic conditions have prompted urban builders to create structures and structures that are simply breathtaking.

Wind traps come in a variety of styles, including unidirectional, bi-directional, and multi-directional. Wind catchers in Iran are often multi-directional, with two to eight holes in the top to collect wind flow from all directions.

Wind traps are so effective that in some places in Iran they are widely used as a cooling device as glaciers (yakhchal or ice chambers). Many traditional reservoirs (ab Anbars) are designed with wind traps that can store water at near-zero temperatures for months in the summer.

This architectural element is still common in Eastern cultures, although there is a growing awareness in Western countries of the use of natural ventilation and passive cooling. More recently, Windscreens have been used in Western architecture, such as the Visitor Center at Zion National Park in Utah. In modern wood construction, a wind trap has been developed that regulates temperature without the need for electric gates or mechanical devices.

Schematic of a building cooled by a natural ventilation system with a qanat and a wind tower.

How does it work?

The operation of the Wind Turret is very similar to that of a modern air conditioning system. There are several directional ducts on top of the wind turbine-usually four ducts that open in four directions. When the channel that faces the prevailing wind opens, air is pushed down the shaft and into the building. At the bottom of the tower is a pool through which the air passes through an aqueduct called a kyanat. As warm air passes through the water, the air is cooled by evaporative cooling. At night the cold air is sucked into the house, thereby cooling it naturally.

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