Solar design Print

Design Outcome

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Design Checklist

  1. Design for the most effective use of the sun


‘Solar design’ includes both ‘passive solar design’ and ‘active solar systems.' Passive solar design does not require special technology but employs certain design strategies to optimise the heating effects of the sun when heat is required, and for shade and natural ventilation when cooling is important. Passive solar construction need not cost any more than standard construction and can greatly reduce costs by reducing capital and ongoing costs of heating and air conditioning equipment.

How spaces or rooms are oriented for passive solar design must be balanced with other principles of site design, such as addressing the street. 

Active solar systems include solar hot water systems (using the sun to provide hot water), and photovoltaic (PV) panels (which convert the sun’s rays into electricity).​

Better Design Practice

Employ passive solar techniques in the design.

Specific passive solar design elements include insulation, shading, building orientation, lighting and ventilation. Materials with a high thermal mass, that is, the ability to absorb and retain heat (e.g. brick, concrete, and stone), can be used in conjunction with solar penetration into a building during the winter and summer shading, to even out diurnal temperature swings. In other words, keeping a building warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Because of the number of complex relationships between passive design factors it is advisable to obtain advice early from a specialist.​

Employ active solar technologies in the development.

Solar thermal conversion or using the sun’s energy to heat water, is the oldest and most economical method of harnessing solar power. Solar water heating systems are inexpensive to install and may greatly reduce the cost of supplying hot water. With the correct sizing of the system a substantial portion of a development’s hot water requirements may be met by using the sun’s energy alone. An electric or gas-boosting element in the storage tank will meet hot water needs during periods of high demand and low sunshine.

Photovoltaic (PV) technologies convert solar energy directly to electricity by way of photovoltaic cells. The high capital cost of batteries, and New Zealand’s uncertain return from selling privately produced electricity back to the grid, has meant that for most developments it is currently most cost effective to size the PV system so that all electricity produced on site from the sun is used within the development as it is produced. This may be well suited to mixed use developments where there is likely to be daytime electricity use during all days of the week (weekends by residential users, weekdays by commercial users).

While active solar technologies may be easily integrated into existing buildings, these technologies are more cost effective when considered in the early design stages of a new development. Solar technologies may be unobtrusive, may enhance the aesthetic and architectural appeal of a building, and are often considered a marketing asset because of the ‘green’ image they convey for a development.

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