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#ElementalDesign Advice 07 PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN


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#ElementalDesign Advice 07 PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN

“Ensure your home design responds to your climate to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home.” – Talina Edwards

What are Passive Solar Design principles and why should we care?

When it comes to designing a building, it just makes good sense to employ these principles as the fundamental essentials to getting your building to feel more comfortable, and just be a better place to be in! These shouldn’t be seen as ‘add-ons’ or optional extras, but intrinsic to good design.

Passive Solar Design has been around for thousands of years, but became popular in the 1970s, with the main principles being:

  • Orientation and north-facing windows (living areas to face north with largest area of glazing to north to capture winter sun for ‘passive heating’ – here in the southern hemisphere)
  • Thermal Mass (with the idea being that internal mass will absorb the heat from the winter sun)
  • Shading (to windows to prevent summer sun from entering the house)
  • Natural Ventilation (openable windows to capture cool night breezes in summer to cool the house down)

Over time, it has become more widely accepted that Passive Solar Design Principles also incorporate:

  • Insulation (The importance of well-insulated homes has gained more attention as the science and experience of the occupants has backed the claims of why it works)
  • Double-Glazed Windows (Windows are a weakness in the building envelope when we are trying to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.)
  • Draft-sealing (This importance of an air-tight building is still misunderstood, however it can make a BIG difference to the comfort of our homes).

We’ll be going through all of these (and more!) in more detail in future posts in our #ElementalDesign Advice series.

The idea behind these principles being ‘passive’ is about taking advantage of your local climate, to maintain a more comfortable temperature range in the home. Design the building to make the most of the free (and passive) heat from sun in winter, provide shading to exclude the hot sun in summer, and use the wind for cooling with cross-ventilation. This is all before needing an ‘active’ or mechanical system of additional heating/cooling for the building.

Passive Solar Design Principles are not to be confused with the Passive House (Passivhaus) Standard. Passive House certified buildings can also incorporate many of these Passive Solar Design principles, but the standard also has additional criteria to be met relating to the ‘building envelope’ for a super energy-efficient house. (Such as very high levels of insulation, no thermal-bridging in the structure, an air-tight envelope, controlled mechanical ventilation systems, highly efficient glazing, etc.) all of which need to meet their strict performance standards to achieve Passive House Certification.

So a lot of the the fundamentals about Passive Solar Design Principles mean that these are ‘hidden’ and not always evident in the finished building – in fact you’re more likely to notice the negative effects in a building that hasn’t included these, rather than be able to understand why some buildings feel more comfortable and so much better to be in.

Architects who understand and implement Passive Solar Design Principles as fundamental to the design of your project are yworth their weight in gold when it comes to a more comfortable home!

Have you heard about Passive Solar Design Principles before? Does your home incorporate these principles, or do you know a place that does? Let me know in the comments below!

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder

Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!

It’s all about comfort! (2016 South Pacific Passive House Conference Melbourne #SPPHC2016)

I recently wrote this review for the ArchiTeam newsletter ‘Datum’ – the original article appeared here and if you’re wondering ‘What is Passive House?’, you can read more about this in my previous post.


It’s all about comfort! (2016 South Pacific Passive House Conference Melbourne #SPPHC2016)

Ballarat Central Regional Victoria Home Design Green Building Eco Sustainable Renovations



Comfort, you say?

  • Not too hot, not to cold – just right, always.
  • Healthy indoor air quality.
  • Calm, peaceful spaces.
  • A place for well-being.

Hands up who wants a home with these qualities?!

Heading along to the Passive House Conference in Melbourne recently, organized by the Australian Passive House Association, I was expecting a lot of technical information over the two jam-packed days. There were 24 presentations, plus workshops and a tradeshow. However, the biggest message from the local and international experts was to remind us that Passive House is all about occupant comfort, and this is achieved with well-designed (& well-built) passive buildings envelopes. This might sound obvious, but so often with discussion of the Passive House standard, the focus shifts to discussions of energy-efficiency and also the mechanical-ventilation system (which is really only a small component). Continue reading

So what is ‘Passive House’?

Passivhaus Sustainable Eco Green Architect Building Renovation Ballarat Buninyong Daylesford Castlemaine Woodend Blackwood GeelongIf you are at all interested in sustainable building, it is highly likely you have heard of ‘Passive House’.

Passive House (also known as Passivhaus where it originated in Germany) is an international method or technical standard of designing and construction a building to achieve a very high level of energy-efficiency, with little or no heating or cooling required. It is not to be confused with Solar Passive Design Principles (which includes orientation/natural ventilation/insulation/shading/thermal mass etc.) although most of these principles can still play a part in the overall design.

It is not an architectural style, but more concerned with the building science of how the building is put together and how it performs.

Here’s a super simple 90 second explanation for you:  Continue reading