Sustainable Architecture

Think Small

Heat with the Sun

Keep your Cool

Use Renewable Energy

Conserve Water

Use Local Materials

Use Natural Materials

Save our Forests

Recycle Materials

Build to Last

Grow your Food

Store your Food

Share Facilities

Heat with the Sun
and Passive Cooling

Nothing can be more comfortable for body and mind than living in a good solar-heated house. I say "good", because proper design is crucial to the comfort of such a house. You may have gone into a solar house and felt stifled by the glaring heat, or perhaps you shivered from the lack of it. Good passive solar design will provide just enough sunlight into the rooms to be absorbed by the surrounding thermal mass (usually masonry materials), so that the heat will be given back into the room when the sun goes down. The thermal mass is a kind of "heat battery" that stores the warmth, absorbing it to keep the room from getting too hot during the day. Equally important to thermal mass is insulation (such as straw bales, crushed volcanic rock, or thermal shades) that will keep that heat inside. Thermal mass materials need to be insulated from the outside, or else they will just bleed that warmth right back out. A rock house might have tons of mass, but be uncomfortably cold because of this energy bleed. So a good solar design will utilize materials of the right type in the right places, blending thermal dynamics with utilitarian design.

Many of the same principles that work to heat living space will also serve to keep that place cool in hotter weather. Other passive cooling strategies include wind towers that catch breezes and direct them through a house, and simple evaporative cooling concepts.




Heat with the Sun

Sail Shades



with Ken Haggard

Passive vs. active
Passive Cooling
Thermal mass and glazing
Types of glazing
Where does this work?
Cost benefits



The Passivehaus Designer's Manual:
A technical guide to low
and zero energy buildings

by Christina Hopfe and Robert McLeod, 2015

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Designing spaces for Natural Ventilation:
An Architect's Guide

by Ulrike Passe and Francine Battaglia, 2015

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Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design Methods for Architects
by Norbert Lechner, 2014

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The Solar House:
Pioneering Sustainable Design

by Anthony Denzer, 2013

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Passive Solar Simplified:
Easily design a truly green home for Colorado and the West

by Thomas Doerr, 2012

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Make Solar and Geothermal Work For You:
Harness the Sun and Earth
to Power Your Lifestyle

by Dr. Simon P. Marlow, 2012

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Natural Ventilation of Buildings:
Theory, Measurement
and Design

by David Etheridge, 2012

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The Passivhaus Handbook:
A Practical Guide to Constructing and Retrofitting Buildings for Ultra-Low-Energy Performance

Janet Cotterell and Adam Dadeby, 2012

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Energy Saving and Storage in Residential Buildings
edited by
Alicja Siuta-olcha and Tomasz Cholewa, 2012

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Building a Passive Solar House:
My Experience Shared...

by Tracey Allen, 2012

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Solar Home Heating Basics: A Green Energy Guide
Dan Chiras, 2012

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Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting and More
Using Natural Flows

by David Bainbridge and Ken Haggard, 2011

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review by Kelly Hart

Toward a Zero Energy Home:
A Complete Guide to Energy Self-Sufficiency at Home

by David Johnson, Scott Gibson, 2010

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Solar Water Heating:
A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water
And Space Heating Systems

by Bob Ramlow, Benjamin Nusz, 2010

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The New Solar Home
by Stephen Snyder, Dave Bonta, 2009

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Advances In Passive Cooling
by Mat Santamouris, 2007

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Build Your Own Solar Heating System
by Kenneth Clive, 2007

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The Simply Solar House: Green Building on a Budget
by Richard and Yoko Crume, 2007

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Solar Power in Building Design
by Peter Gevorkian, 2007

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The Passive Solar House :
The Complete Guide to Heating and Cooling
Your Home

by James Kachadorian, 2006

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Heating or Cooling
Your Building Naturally:
Solar Architectural Solutions

by Virginia B. Macdonald, 2006

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Going Solar:
Understanding And Using
The Warmth In Sunlight

by Tomm Stanley, 2005

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Sun-inspired House:
Ideas And House Plans Using the Sun to Brighten
And Warm Your Home

by Debra Rucker Coleman, 2005

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Solar Heating Systems for Houses: A Design Handbook for Solar Combisystems
by Werner Weiss, 2004

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In Detail:
Solar Architecture

by Christian Schittich, 2003

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The Solar House:
Passive Heating and Cooling

by Daniel D. Chiras, 2002 

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Hot Dirt, Cool Straw
by Nora Richter Greer, Dennis Wedlick, James Grayson Trulove, 2001

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The Passive Solar Energy Book: A Complete Guide to Passive Solar Home, Greenhouse and Building Design
by Edward Mazria, 1979

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Chez Soleil Paul Breaux, Designer

This is a 3 bedroom, 2 story, 3000 sf house, with attached garage. The design goals were to build a resource efficient, off-the-grid solar home, with no connected public utilities other than a phone line, and to use the home to generate performance data that would document how well the home's design and materials performed to keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter. According to Paul Breaux, a physicist, Chez Soleil performs much better than he expected. The home's temperature is comfortable year round, there is little home maintenance and operating expense, and the many people who tour the home can see and feel the benefits of "green" construction.Very little artificial lighting is needed during the day; natural light is plentiful on both the first and second floors due to window placement and open floor design. Chez Soleil has been written up in several publications including Environmental Design & Construction, the Austin American-Statesman, Southern Living, Mother Earth News, and Solar Today. Chez Soleil was selected by the American Solar Energy Society for the society's solar home tours, and was featured at the 23rd National Passive Solar Conference.

The house was primarily designed for southern exposure to maximize passive solar gain and the efficiency of rooftop solar collectors for electricity. The dining room, living room, and kitchen are incorporated into one open space to give as much utility as possible, and help the home maintain a comfortable and even internal temperature year around. An “attached sunspace” on the east and part of the south sides of the house is an integral part of what makes the house work so well. It provides solar heating during winter, and 700 square feet of growing room. It is a “buffer zone” during warm weather, as large overhangs shade the direct sun out.

The lower part of the foundation is not insulated; it is coupled to the warmer subsoil, which stays at about 70 degrees all year. This system allows the home's thick thermal mass walls to dissipate heat during the summer, and absorb and retain heat when it is cool. The system helps maintain a relatively consistent indoor year around temperature without the need to use a nonrenewable energy source. The main concern was to balance heat gain during the winter with heat dissipation during the summer. Subsoil temperature fluctuations on this particular site were determined, and used to determine how deep the foundation's insulation should go on each side of the house.

Stored solar heat is released from the water containers as needed. Heat flows naturally by low temperature radiation and by warm air convection to the north side of the house, thus balancing comfort zones throughout the living space.

For more information about this plan, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.



kahl.net/solarch shareware electronic primer on passive solar architecture.

consumerenergycenter.com good overview of passive solar concepts.

New Mexico Solar Energy Association description of passive solar concepts.

squ1.com this ecologically oriented architectural software company has assembled a huge array of related information.


susdesign.com has some wonderful online tools for calculating proper window overhang design and heat gain for passive solar.

susdesign.com free software to calculate sunangles from specified locations and times.


norishouse.com describes how a PAHS house can keep an underground house comfortable year round with no additional heat source.

earthshelters has information and plans for a passive solar heat storage (PAHS) system and is related to the above link.


mobilehomerepair.com describes how to make a simple and inexpensive solar air heater.

gravitygarden.com links to a PDF file about how to make a simple, free-standing passive solar heater.


Seabird Island Project shows unique design for the solar heating of water and space through warm air collection and geothermal heat tubes.


sailshadeyourhome.com simple Roman shades that are insulated with R-7 Reflectix.

Instructions for how to make your own Roman Sailshade without the need to sew the fabric.

Disclaimer Of Liability And Warranty
I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks, Inc.


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