News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Flashback Monday: RELAC Comes to Reston

It seems only fitting during a sweltering week in August to set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to June 17, 1965, a momentous day when, with the flip of a switch, our burgeoning planned community entered the space jet age, as shown in this old-timey "news paper" photo of Bob Simon and 7-year-old Deborah Scurlock opening the literal floodgates of what would be known as the lake-cooled RELAC system, which has since brought members of the community together for decades. But back then, there was only the thrilling promise of a future of quiet, clean, water-cooled climate control that would keep the wall-to-wall shag carpeting in the sunken living room from getting musty on even the hottest days.

Give us some good blockquote, old-timey Washington Star "news paper":

The world's first 'community air conditioning system' was turned on yesterday at Reston's newly built Lake Anne Village.

Cooling of an entire community of townhouses, apartments, and stores from a central plant is a major advance in the science of climate control, according to Russell Gray, president of Carrier Air Conditioning Co., whose equipment is being used."

Hmmm. We actually didn't know that a major AC manufacturer was in on RELAC from the start; Carrier supposedly introduced the concept at the 1939-40 Worlds Fair in New York City, so it took them a while to find a guinea pig test site. Or did it? Much as the auto industry bought streetcar systems to hasten their obsolescence, did BIG AIR CONDITIONING deliberately hobble its would-be competitor to keep us all buying those loud, individual AC units that plague us with noise pollution and actually controlled climates?

Maybe not. Alls we know is back in 1965, the future looked bright:

There is no visible evidence of air conditioning outside the homes.
Flash forward a few decades, and there would be no visible evidence inside them, either. But back in 1965, the idea of 10,000 feet of buried pipe to connect Reston's 227 townhouse, 12 shops, and 15-story apartment building was a marvel beyond the imaginations of many.
Heat picked up by the water in cooling household air is removed by water pumped from nearby Lake Anne. The heated water is pumped back to the 30-acre manmade lake, which is large enough to absorb the heat without measurable temperature change.
The same couldn't always be said for the interiors of many homes in the years that followed, but that's a small price to pay for progress, the end.

Full article text below:


  1. Do you have the scan of the entire article? It would be great to read it.

  2. Added it above, but it's not exactly Proustian in its description of the innerworkings of the system

  3. Just adding to the old news - here was Reston Citizens' Association's take on the subject in 2015:


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