Baby, It's Cold Inside: Austin's Air-Conditioned Village

Last weekend I attended a rather awesome event hosted by midtexmod concerning the history of a small collection of homes down the street from our house where architects, builders, and social scientists experimented with air conditioning. Remarkedly, the two presenters (both Lizs) had studied, in one case, air-conditioning for her masters degree and, on the other case, studied the development itself for her masters degree. The developmetn was known as the Air-Conditioned Village.

Some interesting tidbits I learned from Elizabeth Porterfield:
  • Air conditioning first used for humidity control in textile mills
  • Carrier is the father of air conditioning
  • Milan Building in San Antonio is the first air-conditioned office building
  • Most (if not all) of the "Houses of Tomorrow" in Chicago at 1933 World's Fair had air conditioning
  • Central air-conditioning started in the early 1950s and became popular in 1960s
  • A neighborhood in Dallas of about 20o homes were designed around central air conditioning
  • Air-conditioning influenced home design, spreading houses out laterally, no longer needing shading, and the introduction of glass-glass-glass [early Modern California homes 
and some interesting things I learned from Elizabeth Brummett:
  • The village had 22 test houses, 18 builders, with 1,100 to 1,500 sqft
  • At that time, you couldn’t get a mortgage to cover the central AC
  • Dick Hughes built AC houses in Pampa, Texas
  • The homes cost $14,000 to $16,000 (which included the lots at $2,000)
  • 21of 22 houses sold by end of summer after June opening
  • The AC units mostly had water-cooled condensers
  • It cost $57 to $170 dollars ($500 to $1,500 in today's dollars) for three months of summer
  • Issues included vibrations, unvented clothes dryers, solar orientation, and lack of trees 
  • however, AC in the village led to more time together, families ate more together, housewife cleaned less frequently (less dust), husband happier
  • Soon after, banks started including cost of AC in mortgages, even requiring roughing in for AC for new construction. 
As described in this 1954 article in House and Home, the builders experimented with a number of technologies, including radiant barriers, white roofs, shading, fully vented gables, attic fans, and new kinds of insulation. Folks learned a lot from the development that helped to introduce air-conditioning as a requirement for southern homes instead of a novelty (Here's the post-audit).

There used to be a village house here...

nice shutters...

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