If the location and configuration of your project allows for it, passive solar design is something that can be considered in the building architecture. In this approach, windows, walls, floors, and landscaping are strategically chosen and placed to provide heating, cooling, and daylighting to the building. Effectively designed, passive solar heating systems increase the comfort of occupants and don’t have the high initial costs associated active solar heating systems and other heating methods. This could mean lower annual energy and maintenance costs in the long run.
Five Elements of Passive Solar Design – From WBDG
Summer/Day Passive Solar Performance – From Deep Green Architecture.
Passive solar design calls for proper material choices and conscious structure configuration. For instance, in the northern hemisphere this would mean south-facing windows and a building with a rectangular floor plan elongated east to west. Also, the window glass should be of the right type. Solar energy is collected and stored in a building’s thermal mass, which is made up of materials with high heat capacity such as concrete slabs, brick walls, or tile floors. Conduction, convection, and radiation circulate the heat to other parts of the building. If needed, ducts and blowers can supplement. To control for under- and overheating, the building could use roof overhangs, differential thermostats, fans, awnings, and vents. Another consideration is the building’s surrounding landscape. Trees and fences should not block windows, so that full exposure is afforded for colder months.
Four Approaches to Passive Solar Design for Skin-Loaded Buildings – From WBDG
Passive solar design is a careful and involved practice. It is implemented during the design and construction of the building, so there is little maintenance needed. If you’re thinking of building a house with an emphasis on energy efficiency, there are even financial incentives offered by the U.S. government. Find out more:
- The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) on Passive Solar Heating
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) on Financial Incentives for Passive Solar Design
- Sustainable Sources on Passive Solar Design Guidelines
- Wikipedia on Passive Solar Building Design
- Solar Today Article of Resource-Wise House in New Mexico that Uses Passive Solar Design on (Go to Page 18)