City of Alexandria, VA
Page updated Jul 27, 2012 9:39 AM
Passive Solar Design: Heating and Cooling Using Natural Sunlight
Heat and light from the sun is free, renewable and easily accessible. Why not use it to light, heat, and cool your building? Passive solar design uses simple design elements such as building orientation, windows, shading, insulation, and thermal mass to strategically harness the sun’s energy to heat and cool a building. Passive solar design is practiced throughout the world and has been shown to produce buildings with low energy costs, reduced maintenance, and superior comfort.
Depending on your location and your building’s unique design elements, passive solar design can cut a building’s energy use by 30 to 40 percent at no extra cost. In other words, if your monthly utility bill is $300, you could save up to $100 per month, or more than $1,200 per year, simply by incorporating design elements that work with the sun to harness its energy.
In addition to monetary savings, passive solar design has several other added benefits. The New Mexico Solar Energy Association organized the advantages into the following acronym:
Core Design Elements
Passive solar design takes a whole-building approach and involves careful planning in the design phase, before construction begins. Passive systems are simple, have few moving parts, and require minimal maintenance or mechanical controls. During the design phase, architects pair knowledge about how sun will reach the building with design elements that optimize the collection of the sun’s thermal energy. Operable windows are strategically placed to take advantage of local breezes, roof overhangs are incorporated to provide proper shading, and landscaping is planned to provide shading and windbreaks.
Passive solar building design centers upon the following five core principles, as defined by the Solar for Energy:
Passive Solar Design in Alexandria
Passive solar design is a simple, elegant, and cost-effective technique for harnessing free, renewable solar energy to heat and cool a building. T.C. Williams High School incorporates passive solar design elements such as windows, light shelves, and orientation.
(Source: Department of Energy)