Focus on: Cooling things down at Humanities

25 November 2002
Keeping her cool: Liesel Hartnick used some innovative ways of cooling down a hot office in the Beattie building.

The problem:
Balmy summer days have been few and far between this year, but occasionally a steamer has hit the UCT Campus, and staff and students alike have had to join creatures great and small in running for solacing shade (like that's helped).

Some, however, could not flee the ubiquitous heat, and had to bravely bask in its scorching glow at their respective workstations. Such as, for instance, the staff members of the Faculty of Humanities' Undergraduate Office in the Beattie Building on Upper Campus, where a sweltering clime has perennially turned their saltmine into a do-it-yourself solarium.

The solution:
Administrative assistant and avid reader Liesel Hartnick came prepared this year. In addition to putting up sheets of paper on the office windows to deflect the sun's intemperate rays, Hartnick also took a few pointers from a couple of friends who were using a system of 'evaporative cooling' in a greenhouse to cool down their blooming orchids.

She set up an electric fan directly across three saucers of cool water, in that way blowing cool air around the office. This, she notes, is a similar cooling technique to that practised by the Ancient Egyptians.

Imhoptep IX (who may or may not be related to the one reincarnated by Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy), it is said, came upon the idea of evaporative cooling when he felt sweat evaporate off his brow with the help of a cool Nile breeze blowing through the window. He opted for palm fronds rather than electric fans, of course (people kept tripping over the wires).

And does it work? “Oh, definitely,” avers colleague Sandra Naidoo. And Maureen Cooton swears by it as well. “We would have died of heat before we even got to the summer,” she says.

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