It’s becoming better understood nowadays that the best features of passive design have auspicious precedents. Just take adobe houses and thermal mass, or the shade-giving colonnade of Tara and other hospitable southern porches.
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Perhaps less commonly recognized is that high-tech sustainability has a past. There were the well-meaning but sweat-intensive efforts to implement solar and wind power in the 1970s, to be sure, but think even further back. Like to the year 850 AD, for example, when it was believed that a set of Iranian brothers attached horizontal sails to a cylinder and assembled it with millstones that turned grain into flour. Or 1258, when a brick tower windmill was erected in Normandy. And let’s not forget the smock windmills that populate Dutch postcards. In Wind Power, author Christopher Gillis charts the evolution of the machine and its applications—in the late 19th century scientists and tinkerers began considering windmills as generators of electricity. And as history turns more recent, Gillis goes into greater depth, describing the wind-power political scene and the marketplace twists and turns that accompany it, advising property owners about installing small-scale wind turbines, navigating turbine technology in great detail, and refusing to gloss over pitfalls like bird safety. Despite his almost plodding care devoted to wind, Gillis does overlook the nascent movement toward building-integrated turbines. Perhaps he will focus his objective eye on the subject in the next edition.
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