Architecture in Extremely Cold Climate

Cold Climate

Nature of the Cold Climate

Regions that dwell in the cold climate zone are situated at high altitudes. States such as a Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachala Pradesh, Sikkim, and the northern part of UP have a cold climate. The temperature ranges between 20–30 degrees Celsius in summers, while in winters, it ranges from negative 3–8 degrees Celsius, making it quite chilly. The cold climate can be further divided into two categories.

Cold and Sunny

Experienced in Leh (Ladakh), the region is mountainous, with sparse vegetation. This is one of the reasons why it is also considered being a cold desert. Solar radiation is usually intense with a really low percentage of diffuse radiation. In summer, the temperature reaches 17–24 C during the day and 4–11 C in the dark.

Some more examples of places that experience cold climates are Otacamund, Shimla, Shillong, Srinagar, Mahabaleshwar, and so on. These places are usually highland regions with abundant vegetation in the summer. The intensity of radiation is low in winter with a high percentage of diffuse radiation. In summer, the maximum ambient temperatures are in the range of 20–30 C during the day and 17–27 C at night, making summers quite pleasant.

Cold and Cloudy

In winter, the values range from -7 to 8 degrees Celsius during the day and -14 to 0 degrees Celsius in the dark. Winters thus are extremely cold. The low relative humidity, ranging from about 10–50%, and less precipitation than 200 mm per year, marks this type of climate. The sky is fairly clear throughout the year with a cloudiness of but 50%. In winter, the values range between 4 and eight degrees Celsius during the day and -3 to 4 degrees Celsius in the dark, making it chilly.

The ratio is usually high and ranges from 70 to 80%. Annual total precipitation of 1000 mm is disturbed uniformly throughout the year. The sky is overcast for most of the year except during the brief summer.

Physiological Objectives

The main criteria for design in both climate regionalism at resisting heat loss by insulation and infiltration and promoting heat gain by directly admitting and trapping solar radiation within the living space.

Design Considerations for a Climate Zone

Building Orientation

The building should be located on the South slope of a hill or mountain for better access to solar radiation. Cold winds can be avoided by locating the buildings on the leeward side.

Form and Planning

In cold climates, indoor air is cooled within the process of it flowing from inside to outside. This could lead to excessive water vapor condensation if not considered during the design. Air-tight construction should be considered as it will help in capturing hot air inside the building envelope and prevent cold air from entering it.

Open spaces must be shielded from prevailing cold wind. Interior spaces inside the building need to be zoned based on the needs of each space regarding the solar and ventilation requirements.

Building Envelopes

Roof and walls

The walls should be insulated. The South-facing walls (exposed to solar radiation) could be of thermal capacity (such as Trombe wall) to store daytime heat for later use. An efficiently designed sloping roof enables quick drainage of rainwater & snow. Skylights with shutters on the roof admit heat and lights in winter. 

One must style the building to face up to the additional weight of snow (if it is a snowy region) and/or to make sure it would not create puddles that will cause leakage, and worst-case scenario, the collapse of the roof. Rooms with very high ceilings must be avoided as heat travels up and it will be wasted where none can feel it.

Colour and Texture

The external surfaces should be dark so that they absorb heat from the sun. Especially the roof should be painted with darker colors as dark colors absorb heat and allow to passively warm the inside of the building.

Fenestration and Ventilation

In colder climates, windows can be allies and foes at the same time: If too many windows are put, one loses heat, and if too few are put, one would not receive any heat from the sun. The windows must be placed strategically, facing the sun (north, when building within the hemisphere, and South when building north of the equator). It is advisable to have a maximum window area on the Southern side of the building to facilitate heat gain. 

Glass with low thermal transmittances, like hermetically sealed double glass, must be preferred. Sealed and double-glazed windows help reduce heat loss. Skylights are also a good option, as they bring in more natural light (sometimes scarce in colder regions) and are easier to point to the sun.

Doors and windows should all be completely airtight to form the use of passive heating and to prevent the heat from leaking back out. The more layers of glass, the higher the window is at trapping interior heat and preventing outdoor air from entering.


Entryways are often a blessing or a curse, counting on the quantity of shelter they supply. Trying to get in the front door during a snowstorm will be a hassle unless the entrance is covered. Covered outdoor spaces will help protect against the weather and stop snow accumulation in walking areas.

Covered entrances and open spaces prevent excessive cold air from disrupting the comfort of the users while entering or exiting the building. Recessed entryways help protect the doorway from prevailing winds.


Snow melting systems, also called radiant heat systems, are useful in cold climates. The cables or mats are installed beneath the sidewalks or driveway and use radiation to supply enough heat to melt snow to give a steer a secure path.

External Staircases

Ice and snow are often a serious hazard when it falls on stairs. Poor weather makes climbing stairs dangerous. Handrails must be strategically placed along outdoor stairways in order to stabilize as you walk. 


Insulation is one of the foremost important features to think about when designing for a chilly climate. All insulation configurations are not made equal, and what works for one climate might not work for the opposite, which is why choosing the right insulation becomes important.


One has to make sure that walls, roofs, and floors do not condensate in-between; different configurations using equivalent materials may result in very different condensation patterns. Differences between the surface temperature and therefore the surface temperature of the weather during a configuration causes condensation to take place. 

Thermal Transmittance

One has to make sure that walls, roof, and floor configurations are appropriate for the climate. Colder climates enjoy a really low thermal transmittance, expressed in W/m2K; meaning configuration must transmit rock bottom quantity of warmth possible. 

Daylight Integration

Make the foremost out of the available natural light on the location and style openings to let in maximum light. Use of glass facades and roofs for appropriate daylighting for spaces that need the lightest.


Cold climates often need highly glazed facades for max natural lighting. Right shading systems got to be designed to scale back the cooling demands of a building. Installation of automatically controlled shading systems helps the users choose the proper amount of shade required at the proper time. Roofs must even be shielded from direct radiation through coatings, vegetation, and so on.

Ex: Overhangs, Louvres, Awnings, vegetation, and so on.


Insulating materials like timber and dirt plaster are often used on the walls to make facades that prevent heat loss in the maximum amount possible. Timber paneled walls and windows help reduce the speed of transfer of warmth and also are mostly available in cold climatic spaces.


Use trees as natural wind barriers or buffers by planting them near windows to dam cold air from entering the building. Plants and trees chosen for landscaping must be ready to survive the tough climatic differences.

Other Thermal Strategies

The heat from existing appliances inside the building, like the burner and fireplaces, must be efficiently used.

Rock beds help increase the thermal mass of the building by making use of existing heat to make more heat.

Earth berms, that is, utilizing earth against building walls to scale back the quantity of warmth loss from inside the building.

Sunspaces help store solar heat centrally for uniform distribution into all spaces inside the building.


With a chilly climate passive design, the focus is on retaining the warmth gained by the building. That doesn’t deduct from the very fact that there got to be strategies to assist prevent unwanted climatic differences.

Finding the proper balance between both the requirements of the building is where lies the success of the planning.

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