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WENTILATION OF BUILDINGS,
A F A F E F.
READ BEFORE THE
SOCIETY OF CIVIL AND MECHANICAL
No. 7, W E S T M IN STER CHAMBERS,
THE subject of this paper, though not coming solely
within the province of the Engineer, is of such importance to mankind, that I feel no apology is needed for bringing it before a scientific body like this Society.
I do not claim to have discovered anything new in the art of ventilation. All I have endeavoured to do in the following pages is to lay down principles, which shall be applicable to almost every case where ventilation is required.
One object of the paper is to insist upon the great and increasing importance of the subject, and, if successful in this, I am satisfied that it will not have been read in vain.
Before proceeding further, I think it will be desirable to explain what I mean by the term “Ventilation.” Briefly, it is this, a gradual, continuous and complete changing of the air contained in any structure, a substitution, in fact, of fresh air for foul, but so gradual a substitution that the motion of the air should be imperceptible.
Of course, in factories, imperceptibility need not be so much regarded, and in the cases of sewers and underground railways, it is obvious that any method may be followed which promises the most perfect results.
The importance of the subject under consideration, which can hardly be over estimated, has been the constant theme of writers on ventilation, thus, Dr. James Johnson, in a work called “A Diary of a Philosopher;” says—that all the deaths resulting from fevers are but as a drop in the ocean, when compared with the numbers who perish from bad air.
It is to the efforts of science that we must look for an alteration in so disastrous a state of things, and men of science may be assured that Society will ere long demand not, as an eminent Philosopher is reported to have said, a new faith—we neither look for nor expect that—but a longer life, increased freedom from disease, and greater means of enjoying sound health while life lasts.
I believe, we cannot doubt that much of the apathy manifested towards our subject by people generally, results from the abortive experiments and useless methods so often tried, and resorted to for the purpose of supplying the want of ventilation. Before I leave this part of my subject, I will mention one other difficulty in the way of ventilation, and this by no means a small one—I mean the cost. . Although efficient ventilation will not cost a very large sum per room, it cannot be denied that somewhat will be added to the expense of the house, and this “somewhat” the speculative builder never will add until he finds intending tenants and purchasers refuse to take houses which are not properly ventilated. As with houses, so with all other buildings and works; if we make up our minds to ventilate them, we must also resolve to pay for it. I fear that even persons who build houses for their own occupation, are but little in advance of the speculative builder, as far as any recognition of the absolute necessity of efficient ventilation is concerned. Many hold to such crude devices as open windors and doors. Others think a hole of any size or in any part of the wall quite sufficient while I believe the majority pooh-pooh the whole question. It then becomes the duty of scientific men, and bodies, to educate the public up to the recognition of the fact that ventilation is every whit as important as drainage, to individual houses, and that man can no more live in a foul atmosphere than he can while constantly imbibing poisonous water. Ventilation is a want arising chiefly from modern ways and customs, and is therefore a comparatively new branch of science, and we owe our present knowledge of the subject especially to modern researches and discoveries. That ventilation is a new requirement will, I think, be readily acknowledged, when we consider the every day life of our forefathers who lived prior to the close of say the 17th century. We shall see that, in by far the larger number of cases, theirs was an out-of-door life. Their days spent mostly in the field either in the sports of the chase, in war, or in the occupation of husbandry. If they were wealthy, their halls were large and lofty with enormous fire places, and loosely fitting doors and windows, from which innumerable currents of air rushed to the fires. If they were poor they had, amid all the dirt and wretchedness which surrounded them, no want of air, as any one who has seen an old English or Welsh Cottage will readily admit. The windows, too, down to nearly the period I have named, were, in most cases, filled with nothing better than shutters or louvre boards, glazing being then a rarity at least in houses of the commoner sort, for though glass was known to the Phoenicians and to the later Egyptians, whose glass works at Sidon and Alexandria were famous througout the then civilized world, and although it was employed by the Romans to some extent in their windows as is shewn by the remains found in Herculaneum, window glass was not manufactured in England, I believe, prior to the middle of the 16th century and must up to that time at least, and probably long after, have been an article of luxury, while its substitutes, oiled paper or plates of horn, can hardly have been in general use, at least in the dwellings of the poorer classes in country districts. In cities and towns, doubtless, greater comfort if not better sanitary arrangements prevailed. But these were always the strongholds of fever, plague, and cholera. In towns the “black death,” so much dreaded in the 14th century, had its headquarters, and from them it extended its devastating arms into all the surrounding country. I believe that to defective ventilation not less than to bad drainage and insufficient water supply, may be traced these scourges of the human race which now seem rapidly giving up their strongholds to the invading forces of science. We cannot wonder on looking at such places as the hall of Bodiam Castle, for instance, in which were two fireplaces, each about 25 feet wide and 7 feet high, that people found a settle, a comfortable article of domestic furniture, and viewed the chimmey corner, where they crowded like smoked hams, as the choicest parts of the room. Nor must we be surprised when we are told that the curtains enclosing the couches whereon reposed the proudest beauties of the land shook in response to every wind that blew. If the wretched hole which they show in Carnarvon Castle as the birthplace of Edward II. be indeed the room in which that unhappy prince first saw the light, I can only say that whatever advantages the men of a former age may have had over us, certainly domestic comfort could not be said to be one of them. The first person who seems to have turned his serious attention with any practical result towards the subject of this paper, at least in England, was, I belleve, Dr. Desaguliers, who, in 1723, was called in to ventilate the House of Commons, upon which Wren had before tried his hand. The doctor discharged his commission with success, but he unfortunately provoked the hostility of one very important individual, viz., the housekeeper, a certain Mrs. Smith, who effectually extinguished him by not lighting the fires upon the