11 Aug

March 26 – Keeping Cool with the Austin Air-Conditioned Village

The Dawn of the New Normal: Air-Conditioned, Middle Class, Single Family Homes in Austin

The Austin Air-Conditioned Village, to all appearances a set of unassuming suburban homes in northwest Austin, helped usher in our modern era where air conditioning is the norm. The endeavor brought together the efforts of the National Association of Home Builders, the National Warm Air Heating and Air Conditioning Association’s Mobile Laboratory, and the University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Department to demonstrate that centrally cooled homes were affordable for the middle class to buy and operate. In 1954, eighteen local homebuilders constructed the twenty-two test houses, ranging from 1145 to 1468 square feet, designed to sell for $12,000 plus the cost of land. Extensive technical testing was conducted during the initial year, and researchers continued to monitor cost data for an additional year. This field research took into account a wide spectrum of factors—the performance of different air-conditioning systems in houses with different plans, orientations, and materials, occupied by families with a range of daily habits. As one of a number of research villages constructed during the 1950s, the Austin Air-Conditioned Village was exceptional in bringing together leading manufacturers in a major collaborative effort with the homebuilding industry.

Join Ms. Brummett at the historic Neill-Cochran House at 2:00 pm on March 26th, 2016. Complimentary refreshments provided. Presentation begins at 2:30 pm.

Admission is $10 to the general public, $5 to students with valid ID, and free to members of the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Space is limited; while tickets are available at the door, we encourage patrons to register online.

Parking is available free to patrons in the museum lot located off of 23rd street between San Gabriel and Leon.

Have questions about this or any other event? Want to RSVP but prefer to register over the phone? Contact museum staff at 512.478.2335 or send us a note.

About the Speaker

Elizabeth Brummett, part of the Texas Historical Commission’s Division of Architecture for nearly a decade, is the State Coordinator for Project Review. She leads architectural staff involved with a diverse array of projects, including review under federal and state historic preservation laws, administration of Texas Preservation Trust Fund grant projects, and technical assistance to owners of historic properties. Formerly the project reviewer for East Texas, she was part of the agency’s disaster recovery efforts following Hurricane Ike. Before joining the Texas Historical Commission, Elizabeth worked as an architectural historian at Preservation Central, Inc. She studied architecture and art history at Rice University and holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Texas at Austin. Her master’s thesis on the Austin Air-Conditioned Village explored the introduction of air conditioning into tract homes in the mid-1950s, with engineering research conducted in cooperation with the middle-class home buyers. Elizabeth and her family are long-term participants in Pecan Street, Inc.’s research on home energy use, solar power, electric vehicles, and the smart grid.