Back to Basics: Passive Solar Design

At Studio G, we believe green design is more than a rating system, a gimmick or an afterthought. We often use the term ‘fundamental green’ to describe our approach to sustainable design. To us, this means seamlessly integrating environmentally responsible principles, practices and products into our designs from the very initial stages. This not only results in more effective and innovative designs, but it also helps reduce costs and maintain project schedules. We almost always start by examining a project’s site to determine proper building orientation, carefully considering ways to take advantage of the sun to minimize energy usage and increase inhabitant comfort. These basic principles represent the core of passive solar design.

A recent article in the New York Times entitled First Things First: An Efficient Abode, encourages the use of passive solar strategies to build healthier, more efficient homes throughout America.  Jeff Tobe, a photovoltaic instructor for Solar Energy International states,

“Heating and cooling consumes almost half the energy in a typical American home, so designing a building that naturally stays thermally comfortable is the best way to reduce energy consumption.”

How do you build a thermally comfortable building in a natural, passive way? Here are a few tips:

*   Orient your building to take advantage of the sun’s rays in each season. For example, here in Massachusetts (and the Northern Hemisphere in general) buildings should be oriented so their longest wall faces south with plenty of windows to let in the sun. The north wall should have very few windows, since it never receives direct sunlight and windows are poor insulators. In the summer when the sun arcs higher in the sky and cooling is the priority, consider overhangs, window shading devices or vegetation to prevent direct sunlight from entering your space.

*  Select an efficient envelope that keeps the building superinsulated. Pay special attention to window types and ratings. Generally, the south wall of a building should contain windows that let in a lot of light, while the other walls should be glazed with better insulated windows.

*    Use thermal mass to absorb, trap and re-release the sun’s heat. Consider materials with high thermal inertia such as concrete, stone and brick. These will help temper the interior of your space and keep heating and cooling costs low.

To read more, click here:

4 responses to “Back to Basics: Passive Solar Design

  1. Very efficiently written article. It will be supportive to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s