Controlling water resources has always played an important part in the lives of people who live in the deserts of Iran. Qanāts, water reservoirs (Āb Anbār) and ice houses (Yakhchāl) are some of the finest examples of creative methods used by Iranians throughout history to control, transport and store limited water supplies. Ice houses have been used in different countries around the world. However, while many of these structures were merely used to conserve ice through insulation, the ice houses in Iran benefit from special evaporative cooling techniques, thus making them a perfect spot to also cool down the water coming from the qanats.
Moayedi Ice House in Kerman is one of the best examples of an Iranian Yakhchāl. Built in the later years of the Safavid dynasty, this ice house consists of a tank, a barrier, a pool and an ice storage facility. The unique cone-shaped design of these buildings allow for cool air to enter and circulate inside the structure, while at the same time, guiding the heat upwards and outside through the holes on top of the building. The mud bricks used in these structures do an amazing job of thermal insulation in order to maintain the cooler temperature inside the ice house.
How exactly did ice houses create their precious ice 400 years ago? In order to create frozen water right next to the ice houses, a tall barrier was built somewhere in or around the ice house, on a flat surface, to prevent sunlight from melting the water that was stored behind the barrier. This water would then freeze overnight in wintertime. In the case of the Moayedi Ice House, this barrier is almost 12 meters tall and built around the main structure of the ice house. It is also used to control how much water flows into the ice house throughout different periods of the year. When enough ice was formed behind the barrier, they were cut into pieces and put inside the ice house’s storage unit to be used until the very next winter.