You don’t have to commit to Net Zero or Passivhaus to significantly lower the energy usage of your home and enjoy the benefits of capturing the light and warmth of the sun. Well-designed buildings that incorporate good site planning and energy conserving envelope materials can be eco-friendly and affordable.
Ideally you have a site that has good southern exposure and views. Place your windows on the south (assuming you are in the northern hemisphere) and minimize the area of your north facing windows. Incorporate a heat sink in your design such as a cast-in-place concrete floor slab or vertical walls that absorb the heat of the sunshine and release energy throughout the day and night. Areas adjacent to your south windows will experience temperature swings, so locate uses such as circulation, next to them.
To minimize glare and heat build up in the summer incorporate overhangs into your roof design. The home pictured here, designed by Lynn Fritzlen AIA, has a generous overhang to protect the two stories of glass below it. In winter the low sun angles penetrate the glazing and in summer the higher angles are cut off by the eave. To move the warmed air to the upper-level, create a two-story space or provide ducting.
When building from scratch, work with your realtor and architect to identify a site that works with your sustainability goals. If you are renovating or adding on identify strategies that can be implemented given building envelope restrictions. Prioritize thermal resistant glare reducing windows.R