From where you put your windows, to how you position your home on your lot, the right location is a significant consideration in high-efficiency homebuilding. To build a modern custom home at the highest end of energy conservation and comfort, a whole-house approach to design and systems function takes careful consideration and planning. Harnessing the sun, nature’s most potent energy source, can be done in a way that is both incredibly cost-effective as well as aesthetically beautiful. By utilizing passive home building techniques, the sun becomes our ally in energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, and healthy living.
The sun is a moving target shifting moment to moment and season to season. In California, the seasonal position of the sun and the arrangement of rooms and their window positions in the home play a notable role in controlling the home’s heating, cooling and natural light. Where and how the house is positioned on the terrain affects the exposure to light. Designing with these things in mind is called “daylighting.”
Modern homes embrace a style and orientation well suited to maximize the potential of heat and light from the sun, including more gain during the winter months and less gain during the summer months. Homes are designed to place rooms with higher daytime use in a position to take the most advantage of direct daylight, while less frequented rooms like bedrooms and rooms used during the evening and nighttime hours are at the cooler, backside of the design. During summer months, exterior shading devices like awnings, shutters, and trellises help to accept sunshine during the morning but act as a barrier as the day heats up.
Daylighting can substantially reduce or eliminate the use of artificial lighting. And, natural light has positive health effects on residents. Studies on the impact of daylighting in the commercial sector have shown daylighting techniques can reduce stress, and improve productivity, attentiveness, and mood.
A passive home takes further advantage of daylighting techniques by capturing the heat from the sun through absorptive building materials like concrete, brick, stone, and tile. These materials help to warm the house during the heating season and cool the house during summer months by absorbing excess interior heat.
Through site and climate analysis, home orientation, and energy modeling, an experienced designer simulates the details of a passive solar home to fit the location as well as the homeowner’s budget, home style, and performance requirements. The result is a home with superior energy efficiency – the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heating and cooling bills.
Beyond daylighting, solar panels play an important role. The energy collected here powers many home systems that can virtually take you off the power grid. A passive home includes a solar-powered Photovoltaic Electrical System able to supply more electrical power than the house needs. A solar thermal system takes advantage of the sun to provide hot water as well as an additional heat source. This system is designed to offset up to 80 percent of the energy needs for heating the home’s water and up to 50 percent of the home’s demand for space heating.
You can find out more location considerations and about the process of building a passive home – one that’s more healthy for your family, and the environment – by checking out Clarum’s High Performance Home Building Guide.
Want to talk to Clarum about using these practices to build your modern dream home? Give us a call at 650.322.7069.