Think of Ventulus, the latin word for breeze, which comes from ventus, the wind and venti were the deities which ruled over them. In ancient Greek mythology there were four main wind gods, each with a specific cardinal direction, the classical compass winds, associated with separate seasons and weather conditions.

Orientation is essential to get the best of ventilation into buildings and if you know your local winds and which ones are predominant and at what time of the year they prevail, this will help decide which type of ventilation will be propitious to your site.

Traditionally, in the northern hemisphere, the north wind brings the cold and is associated with winter; the south wind brings storms after midsummer and is associated with disasters to crops; the east wind is associated with mild rain; and the west wind, associated with the springtime, brings life to the earth after the cold of winter.

Aristotle drew his wind rose with each point associated with a deity and we still use them today for our compass – 8 cardinal and half cardinals or collateral points and 8 sub-collateral or quarter points.


Image source: Portuguese hand-painted tiles, 17th century,

Once you are familiar with your local winds, it is then easier to determine how to best make use of them.

Prevailing winds are often welcome during one season and you may let them into your building[1] but then they turn pernicious in another season and you may want them out.

It is important therefore to think of ways in which you can allow them in, such as openable windows, grates or even chimneys and at the same time find ways in which to shut them out, such as external shutters.

Whether you capture air into your building through roofs, walls or under floors, the choice has to be a conscious one – only then will you be able to take most advantage of all the variables in the equation of air intake versus air quality and the improvement of indoor comfort conditions.

The message from all this is: know your winds before starting to plan your buildings and gardens.

By Silvia Pelham

[1] Such as cool north winds in summer