The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building (AIB), a historic downtown DC landmark, was built prior to the development of mechanical aeration; its architects designed it to benefit from natural ventilation. The building’s exhibition spaces allowed air to enter through the lower windows; operable windows, clerestories and monitors ventilated warm air at the top of the building where it accumulated, taking advantage of the stack effect.
Unlike contemporary exhibition buildings, the AIB is a compact, box-shaped block in plan. The halls, ranges, and courts were built with brick cavity walls in place, rather than solid walls, to facilitate movement of air through the building. The original building design provided low-pressure steam pipes from a basement boiler room through a tunnel system to radiators throughout the museum.