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Cooling in Earlier Times, by Design

I never knew the full value of trees. Under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company.” –Thomas Jefferson

One of the first articles I wrote for our newsletters was titled ‘FLORIDA’S MAJESTIC OAKS: A SOURCE OF BEAUTY, RELAXATION AND NATURAL COOLING’. It was written after running across the above quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

It was springtime and with everything being in bloom the old allergies were acting up and I was growling about the high pollen count. The gist of the article is that even with my allergies and suffering I still have a deep appreciation for our majestic oaks, as well as the azaleas and other shrubs and plants that adorn our Florida landscapes. Mr. Jefferson’s statement brought back memories of my early childhood in Orlando and the importance of trees and shrubs in our local environment.

At that time, the mid 1950’s, very few homes were air conditioned. Shaded building sites were highly sought after and the builders positioned the homes on these sites to take advantage of the established, mature trees. Most of the homes were specifically designed with extended eaves to provide shade for the exterior walls of the house and many were built with wrap around screened porches.

Double doors or large windows opened onto these porches so as to receive cross ventilation day and night. Many homes had a large exhaust fan located in a central hallway which pulled the air through the doors and windows into the attic, which was ventilated. This had the two fold action of cooling the rooms in the house and also pushing the hot air out of the attic. This contributed to the overall cooling effect.

Landscaping for most homes was designed specifically for making life more tolerable in Florida’s heat. Hedges were planted with direction of air flow, perhaps from a nearby lake or open area, always in mind. Often a high trellis with a climbing ivy or sweet smelling Confederate Jasmine was found 2 to 3 feet from the edge of the porch on the sunny side of the house. Its purpose was two-fold. It blocked the sun during the day and also provided a sweet aroma for evening socializing. And with the set back of the trellis, it still allowed evening breezes to flow through the area with a natural cooling effect. And all this was at the pleasure of Mother Nature.

Over the summer months I did several articles on landscaping for shading effects and with energy efficiency in mind. Landscaping for energy efficiency and natural cooling effects is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson certainly had an appreciation for the benefits trees provided for his daily endeavors and socialization. Earlier generations did it out of necessity. With today’s rapid escalation of energy costs, if not a necessity, it is certainly the smart thing to do.

Do I want to go back to those earlier days? No thank you. I think air conditioning is a mighty fine invention. But with the proper choice of trees and other plants, and some forethought regarding placement and future growth, we can still reap the benefits of landscaping for energy efficiency and natural cooling.

With over 28 years combined experience in our Planning and Design Department, at JLC Outdoors we have what it takes to consult with you on a plan for shading your home. Fill out the CONTACT US FORM on our website or give us a call at 407-595-5818. We will be glad to meet and work with you to make your outdoors cooler and more enjoyable.

Jim Adams
September 2011

In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” —Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

LandscapeDesign is…

… the arrangement of plant and structural elements to satisfy the aesthetic desires of the inner soul in its quest for peace and calmness.

J. Adams/8/01/11