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Wind Towers (Badgir) are important elements in traditional Iranian architecture, providing natural air-conditioning in hot, dry and humid climates for thousands of years. The first historical evidence of wind towers in Iran dates back to the fourth millennium BC and since then wind towers have been an inseparable part of the architecture of central and southern Iran, namely in Yazd, Kashan, Bam and the villages along the Persian Gulf coast.
The function of wind towers was to provide occupants with constant comfort in harshly variable desert climates. Wind towers were built with a four-directional orientation to catch and guide wind into the house from all directions.
Wind towers consist of four parts: the body which contains shafts, air shelves which catch hot air and prevent it from entering the structure, flaps which redirect wind circulation, and a roof covering.
Wind travels through the shafts on top of the tower to reach the interior of the building. The air flow inside the structure travels in two directions, up and down. The temperature difference between the interior and exterior of a building causes pressure variations that result in the creation of air currents. In cities where the wind only blows from one direction, one shaft operates to receive the breeze and the other three work as air outlet passages.
There are three types of wind towers: The basic wind tower built over cellars and underground Ab-Anbars (water cisterns), which keeps food refrigerated and also provided a cool sitting room. The second type transfers the flow into the basement where upon hitting damp walls its humidity increases while its temperature decreases. The flow could be directed into other rooms using valves. The third type of wind tower is taller and was mainly used in multi-roomed one-story buildings. A dome-roofed hall under the tower helped ventilation. The function of the cistern found below most wind towers in warm dry regions is to balance humidity inside the structure.
These towers rise not only above ordinary houses but also on top of Ab-Anbars and mosques. The city of Yazd which has come to be known as the ‘City of Wind Towers’ is famous for its use of these traditional air conditioning systems.
With today's growing emphasis on reducing energy consumption, modern architecture can make use of traditional Iranian methods to utilize air currents and evaporation in cooling and air-conditioning living quarters.
Iran has submitted a file on its age-old wind towers to UNESCO for inscription on the World Heritage List.