AREP, a multidisciplinary architecture agency, created a cooling system prototype based on the history, culture and original designs used by ancient civilizations. Called an adiabatic urban cooling system, the idea dates back centuries, yet is still perhaps the most natural solution for the challenges of cooling modern Vietnamese cities facing regular heat waves.

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A cylindrical shaped bamboo structure that pinches inward at the middle sits in a jungle

The adiabatic urban cooling system relies on the copious amounts of water throughout Hanoi. At a local level, the system works to naturally cool the air through an evaporation process. It’s energy-efficient since there’s no energy required to implement the adiabatic principle. 

Related: LEGO to build its first carbon neutral factory in Vietnam 

A drawn diagram of the cylindrical bamboo cooling system device to show how air goes in and cool air comes out

It’s also a frugal solution to cool the cities and public areas without a need for energy production or the use of polluting refrigerants like those in air conditioning units. All that’s needed is fresh water and hot air — two things Vietnam has in natural abundance.

A close up of bamboo stacked closely together to create a structure

The cultural relevance of the adiabatic technique goes beyond the system itself. It has a unique update that supports local artisans and incorporates another resource Vietnam has an abundance of — bamboo

The walls of the bamboo structure shot upwards

In addition to agriculture and fishing, Vietnam supports a bustling arts and crafts industry. Villages scattered throughout the region have developed specialization in bamboo, pottery, textile and even recycled beer glass techniques. For AREP’s prototype, the team met and worked with local families to develop a system that could be built by locals. 

A circular cutout that has trees and blue sky within it

They initially experimented with glass, but found glass to be fragile and unsafe. In the end, they turned to bamboo for the main structure. The marriage of AREP’s modern take on an ancient process with traditional handicrafts in the region became a viable, low-tech and energy-efficient solution for cooling down the city’s outdoor spaces. 

+ AREP

Images via AREP Vietnam