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Architect's Toolbox: Solar-Powered Design

In a recent ideabook we identified that a smartly designed house as one that’s respectful of the planet. In a second story, we introduced the Hudson Passive Project, a house that relies almost entirely on sunlight for its heating and cooling. Here, I will use a few examples to get into a little more detail about how best to design a house to benefit from the sun’s power.

More: High Layout With Solar Panels

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

This residence is by architect Nathan Kipnis, who has spent the last several decades designing homes that require sunlight for heating and other power needs. In this house, Nate orients the extended face on an east/west axis to ensure that the house gets a lot of sun throughout the day. The design incorporates a deep overhang and pergola to block sunlight from entering the house in summer, once the sun is higher in the skies.

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

This photograph is shows how the inside looks on March 21 and Sept. 21 annually. Light from the summer sun enters the first few feet of the house. It reinforces the design by helping specify the primary circulation space and hallway.

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

This photograph is of the property’s inside on Dec. 21. In winter, once the sun is lower in the sky, sun reaches deep inside to help illuminate and warm the inside.

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

The only thing necessary to attain a house powered by sunlight is a few wise layout. For another project, architect Nate Kipnis defines the roof angles that are going to be necessary through winter …

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

… and in summertime to optimize harnessing sunlight.

The finished home is quite traditional in appearance, belying the fact that the residence is on the leading edge of technology and design.

ZeroEnergy Design

Another home on the outer edge of sustainability and green design also has rather conventional architecture. This house includes features like a passive cooling system (appropriate sealing and the capability to benefit from natural air movement) and Energy Star compliance (third-party-certified to use 15 percent less energy than allowed by the energy and building code).

ZeroEnergy Design

What I particularly like about this house is the fact that it is smartly designed to be a fantastic neighbor and also engage the world around it.

See more of this house

Noel Cross+Architects

Though we sometimes think a house on the outer edge of design and technology will seem like something from the Jetsons, it surely does not have to. This house offers more evidence that an energy-efficient and sustainable house can be built in almost any style and in any location. They just need to be smartly built to match their context and their owner’s tastes.

This house’s conventional design fits seamlessly within its own context, while incorporating straw-bale structure (a great insulator and sustainable system), passive cooling and much more.

Jesse Bornstein Architecture

Sometimes it does not make economical sense to install a solar array such as photovoltaic cells when a residence is first built. But setting an optimal roof angle at the start makes incorporating these features that much easier later on, once the technology improves and the prices come down.

More: 10 Elements of the Just-Right House
Innovate Home, Heated and Cooled by Layout
High Layout With Solar Panels

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