How this school in the Indian desert stays cool even in extreme heat

Chelsea Lee, CNN

In the north Indian desert town of Jaisalmer, also known as “The Golden City” for its array of yellow sandstone architecture, temperatures can reach approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) at the height of summer. Here, buildings have long been designed to adapt to the heat, a tradition that New York architect Diana Kellogg has followed with her work on the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School.

The project, which is meant to empower women and girls through education in a region where the female literacy rate is the lowest in India, was commissioned by CITTA, a US non-profit organization that provides economic and education support to women in remote and marginalized communities. It’s the first step in a three-part architectural project that will also include a women’s cooperative center and an exhibition space. Named the 2020 “Building of the Year” by Architectural Digest India, the eco-friendly sandstone school opened in November 2021 and 120 girls are currently enrolled in its curriculum, according to Kellogg.

Natural cooling
Designing a comfortable learning space can be challenging in the heart of the Thar desert, where climate change is making drought spells longer and more intense. Kellogg, who usually designs high-end residential projects, was motivated by a 2014 trip to Jaisalmer, and wanted the building to symbolize the hope and resilience of the desert by merging aspects of traditional Jaisalmer architecture with a modern design.

“There are methods to cool spaces that have been used for centuries. What I did is I put them together in a combination that worked,” Kellogg said, adding that indoor temperatures at the school are approximately 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the outdoors….