Passive Solar Design: Harness the Energy of the Spanish Sun for Heating and Cooling Your Home

An appreciation of how best to manipulate natural energy resources is fundamental to successful energy efficient design.

Daylight, sunlight, and solar heating should be embraced early in the design stage of a project in what is now called passive solar design.

Passive Solar Tree House by L.A. Architects Standard.
Passive Solar Tree House by L.A. Architects Standard.

It is important to understand that all the factors that underlie the successful application of passive solar building design are intrinsically linked. Orientation, window design and shading strategies, thermal mass and building envelope are all influenced by and supportive of each other. A badly orientated building for example affects the performance of each of the other factors requiring their re-optimization to compensate. Similarly a building with optimized orientation but limited thermal mass may require other enhancements to help maintain comfortable temperatures during the extremes in winter and summer.

In Spain we have to design to accommodate the excesses of cold and hot weather and this will always dictate how far the designer is able to pursue each particular aspect of passive solar design.

The basic rule of passive solar design is orientation. In a previous blog post I joke that all our buildings are constructed on a giant revolving turntable.The real point is that significant energy savings can usually be made without incurring any additional construction costs depending on the extent of the design solutions adopted and the nature of the project.

These solutions will revolve around the parameters of building orientation, shading, window design, thermal mass, ventilation and airtightness.

The sun can also provide photovoltaic electricity and other effective systems for heating and cooling your home without burning money or fossil fuels. Some of these subjects I have covered in previous blog posts and all of which I will cover shortly.

Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with 18 years experience living and working in Spain.

John Wolfendale
John Wolfendale