Passive Cooling Strategies for Hot Climates — 11 Comments

  1. I’ve been looking and looking and cannot find instructions anywhere on proper thatching for palms. I want to know how good these roofs are against heavy rains (Belize) and winds. Also keep reading about the earthen roofs which supposedly keep houses cool. I get the concept but don’t understand the maintenance. Any thoughts or insights?

    • I’d hunt for locals who still build with thatch and hire them to help do the work.

      There are special tie downs used to minimize damage to thatch in high wind areas.

      Earthen roofs or living roofs are tricky, but will work in Belize and other tropical areas. You’ll have to decide if you want to do all the maintenance. It’s much like caring for a garden. Plan to be up on the roof regularly, especially until all the plants are thoroughly established. Use hardy plants because it’s more difficult to get things to grow up on a roof. For me, the cost of the heavy rubber bithuthene is almost a deal killer. Roots and rodents will eventually puncture cheap plastic, so the heavy rubber liner is pretty much required.

    • I worked with locals in Panama making true, old-school palm thatch roofs and there are many downfalls to this kind of roofing. First off is the bug issue. Any and every kind of cockroach, ant, scorpion and crawling creature will harbor in these damp, decomposing leaves. Second is the fact that these structures are temporary and need to be rebuilt about every 3-5 years depending on the storms that year. The fronds were simply attached with nails to a cross-beam. Lastly, there is hardly any structural integrity as a large tree branch or even a coconut from a neighboring tree may come crashing through if in a gale. So, if you want the look of thatch, then I know there is a faux thatch roof that can be installed, but surely they are made from a non-renewable resource. I would look to a green roof with cacti, succulents or other minimal-water plants. Make sure it has a good liner and it should last for decades.

  2. I enjoyed the nice and thorough video! The gap along the top was particularly interesting, i bet with some screening it can be adapted to other structures as well.

    • Not yet. The original plan was to screen the gap, but like many things we never got around to it. It hasn’t been a problem up until lately. Now a bird is coming in to gather nesting material. Great. Every so often there’s a mess of thatch on the floor.

  3. Owen,
    This has been one of the best presentations I have seen related to recommendations of keeping your Natural Home cool. Simple and effective!

    We also live in a “hotter climate” (Panama) and we fully agree to all the suggetions and recommendations you have provided in your video. We have experienced them to be realistic and proven as correct in our type of weather.

    You also recommend the Mango Tree. Many people may not know that besides one of the best shade providers the Mango Trees does not loose their leaves. So, you do not have a mess of collecting leaves throughout the year like so many other shade providing trees. And, you have the benefit of not only a beautiful shade, but also harvesting yummie Mangoes….

    Another species of tree we have found here in Panama with extraordinary charecteristics is Neem. You may want to look into this. This is an extraordinary tree not only providing many beneficial aspects known but we have also see some characteristics as natural “Mosquito Repellant” and as a “Cool Air Providing Tree”. It may not grow as high as a Mango Tree but for some reason it provides “coolness” to its surroundings which is not commonly known to many.

    Here is a weblink:

    Well done!

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