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We Know Why You Can't Breathe.

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

A Look at Natural Ventilation and How to Improve the Air Flow in your Space.

One of the greatest gifts in life is fresh air. Whether you are stressed out of your mind, feeling sick, need a break or tired of the same old, we can’t deny that fresh air literally gives us life! But what happens when you are stuck in a cluttered, hot or poorly ventilated space? You wind up feeling worse than you already do!


When we design spaces, our core intention is to take advantage of natural elements. Why wouldn’t we? Especially while it’s still free and clean! Who knows what the air will feel like in 30 years. Natural ventilation, also known as passive ventilation is the act of pulling fresh air into a space or removing air without mechanical systems. Before we think of air conditioners, heating and cooling systems, let’s maximize our God-given fresh air.

Natural ventilation takes advantage of the natural flow of air and pressure to cool a space. This means finding the best way possible to direct cool air in and expel warm air out of a space. We can do this by strategically designing openings and creating clear channels for the flow of air in a way that regulates temperature and pressure differences between the inside and outside.

Depending on your spatial requirements and environmental restrictions, what is the best way you can improve the air flow in your space? We have a few!

  • Open Plans

An open plan design combines rooms without permanent separation. Having fewer walls may mean you can engage across multiple spaces, but what's even more important is the room created for air to flow freely. Construction costs are also reduced, and utilities like lighting minimized. It's a winner in our book!

Open Plan Dining Area in "The Grey House" by IODS

  • Screen Walls

If you cannot commit entirely to an open plan and need a touch of privacy but still want to maximize air flow, screen walls can help. They can be installed in a variety of materials and designs. Some can be statement pieces, while others can be multifunctional, like "The Bold Stairway" we designed for support, display and airflow.

The Bold Stairway by IODS

  • Declutter

For those who want to do the bare minimum, here's the most obvious and easiest option - Declutter your space! Hoarding and airflow don't go hand in hand. You're not only cluttering your space, but your mind. Our advice, let it ALL go!

  • Low Heat Absorbing Ground Covers

The best ground cover we know is grass. Covering your entire garden in stone might look great, but won't offer any "cool" benefits. Having a well planned landscape with an emphasis on preserving vegetation, will help your space breath.

Landscape Plan for "The Retirement Home" by IODS

There's a reason why the sustainable design movement is growing stronger and more activists are reminding us to grow and preserve trees. Let's all contribute to green design and build around nature instead of clearing it. Trees are not only great wind breakers, but also present great opportunities for design. Which, by the way, we'd be happy to jump on board and help you design the "tree house" of your dreams.

  • Water Features

Are you a fountain lover? Fancy having a swimming pool, or a natural pond in your space? Well, in addition to adding to aesthetics, water features help to transition and naturally cool warm air as it enters your space. We are giving you the green light to go for it! Get it? GREEN light! No? OK moving on…

Water Feature in "The Grey House" by IODS

  • Low Heat Retention Materials and Furnishings

Did you know that in addition to designing sustainable spaces you can go the extra mile and build or furnish with sustainable materials? We hate to burst your bubble, but the beautiful tiles you may want to pick out or the finish you'd like for your dream home might slightly contribute to your night sweats.

Do a little research on low heat retention options or ask your contractors to help you pick what’s best. Better still, stay tuned for our next monthly topic on materials! We’d love to lay out all your options.

  • Transitional Spaces

This is a personal favourite, because who wouldn't want a courtyard, large balcony or double height ceiling? These are all great options for airflow, circulation and design. Have a look at the grand space in the interior sneak peek of "The Retirement Home" shown below.

Not only do these options add character to your space, but provide a transitional space for warm and cool air to exchange peace talks on how to make you more comfortable. I’ll take all of them for my dream house please!

  • Window Orientation

Naturally, having your windows placed along the North and South makes for the best cross ventilation, while ghosting the morning and evening sun. If you place them along the East and West, and happen to live along the equator like we do, let's just say it will be a sticky situation.

This knowledge can also help you with placement of room windows in relation to their function. If you’re avoiding heat, you could place a window in aroom you won’t be using in the morning, along the East. Otherwise, placing windows for rooms like your bedroom along the East will have you waking up to light and warmth - yuck!

Yes. we love the sun but don’t tell her we’re mostly using her for light. I don’t know about you over there in the Arctic Circle, but here in Uganda, we’re good on heat. Yes we’re showing off. Come visit in your shorts and flipflops.

  • Wind Deflectors

These are especially designed to redirect airflow, for example if you can only have one window in a room, cross ventilation is impossible. However, you can instead design the window to have multiple parts that allow for air to flow in and out through cleverly designed window parts.

Louvres and exterior overhangs also contribute further to natural ventilation. Hmmm, we might have to discuss windows in depth in the next article. This brings us to a more manual method to natural ventilation:

  • Open Your Windows!

This goes without saying, because why should your room remain stuffy when you can just open your windows? Make it your morning habit and your life will be better for it. We can not endorse this message for night time though, we'll leave that up to you and the mosquitoes. If you like fresh air blowing in while you sleep, you might want to bug-proof your windows.

  • Window Height

Larger windows reduce the heat load on your ceilings, so keep this in mind when designing your spaces. And whoever said bathroom windows MUST be tiny? If anything they might need to be the largest to relieve everyone of daily stink bombs. For the sake of peaceful households where nobody asks who just used the toilet, let’s normalize having larger bathroom windows. We can always use frosted glass for privacy.

Do you have your own ways to naturally improve the airflow in your space? Do share in the comments below. Improved air flow means reduced energy and maintenance costs, better air quality, consistent temperature and if you care about your carbon footprint, lower carbon emissions.

If there’s that one hot space in your house that you can’t figure out why, we hope this article helped. We will be sharing content around airflow and natural ventilation this whole month so follow our social media to keep up! Wishing everybody an amazing breathable month!

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