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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Balfour

Passive Solar Design

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

How to incorporate Passive Solar Design principles for your home



Passive solar design is an architectural approach that harnesses natural energy from the sun to heat, cool and light a building without the need for mechanical systems. It is an energy-efficient design strategy that reduces the environmental impact of buildings while improving the comfort and well-being of its occupants. In this blog, we'll explore what passive solar design is, its benefits, and how it works.




A combination of design elements in use to create an energy-efficient strategy for your home.


Passive solar design is a set of principles that aim to maximize the use of natural energy from the sun to reduce the energy required to heat, cool, and light buildings. The concept is based on the idea that the sun is a free and abundant source of energy, and by harnessing this energy, buildings can become more sustainable and energy-efficient.

The benefits of passive solar design are many. First and foremost, it reduces the need for mechanical heating and cooling systems, which in turn reduces energy consumption and costs. This, in turn, leads to a reduction in carbon emissions and a more sustainable building overall. Additionally, passive solar design can improve the comfort and well-being of building occupants by providing natural light and ventilation, reducing the risk of mould and improving indoor air quality.


So how does Passive Solar Design work?


It starts with building orientation. Passive solar design seeks to maximize the building's exposure to the sun's rays, with the primary goal being to capture as much solar energy as possible. This means orienting the building to face north (because we are in the Southern Hemisphere). By doing so, the building can capture the sun's energy in the winter when the sun is low on the horizon and avoid overheating in the summer when the sun is high in the sky.


Another important aspect of passive solar design is building materials. Materials with high thermal mass present inside the building, such as concrete and stone, are used to absorb and store solar energy during the day and release it at night when the temperature drops. This helps to regulate the temperature inside the building, reducing the need for mechanical heating and cooling systems.


Passive solar design also involves the use of shading devices, such as overhangs and awnings, to control the amount of solar energy that enters the building. By strategically placing shading devices on the north-facing side of the building, for example, the building can avoid overheating in the summer while still allowing sunlight to enter in the winter.





One of the key elements of passive solar design is the use of the surrounding landscape to assist in achieving optimal energy efficiency. Some ways to use landscape to assist passive solar design are; siting of building to existing trees and thermal mass elements such as rock formations. Windbreaks are not only provided by hedges or trees, but they also provide shading. Water features can also be incorporated into the design to provide evaporative cooling.


Ventilation is another important aspect of passive solar design. Natural ventilation can be achieved using operable windows, skylights, and other openings. Stack ventilation strategically removes hot air from the building in summer months. This helps to regulate indoor air quality and temperature, reducing the risk of mould and other indoor pollutants.

The bottom line

In conclusion, passive solar design is an energy-efficient and sustainable approach to building design that harnesses the natural energy of the sun to heat, cool, and light buildings. By maximizing exposure to the sun, using high thermal mass materials, shading devices, and natural ventilation, passive solar design can improve the comfort and well-being of building occupants while reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

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