Designing for the sun Print

Design Outcome

Desi​gn Checklist​​​​

  1. ​The house is comfortably heated and cooled by natural means​

​​​​‘Passive solar design’ means orienting and designing your house to maximise sun when heat is required, and for shade and natural ventilation when cooling is important. This will decrease the energy costs of new houses and increase their value.

Although people like to have sun in every room of the house, sun exposure should be related to how different rooms will be used during the course of the day. The kitchen and breakfast areas might be placed to the east to catch the morning sun; living areas and family areas to the north (all day sun); lounge and dining to the west (afternoon and evening sun); and service rooms and garage to the south. Bedrooms should have some access to sun, and the living or dining area must have access to sunny outdoor space.

Orienting for passive solar design must be balanced with other principles of site design, such as addressing the street.

Better Design Practice

Plot the sun path and sun angles across the site at different times of the year and use this information in the design.

Orientate the house along an east-west axis.
This will maximise the amount of wall area exposed to the north. Careful design is important, as homes in Auckland can be more prone to overheating than loss of heat. 

Maximise glazing and any shading devices or roof overhangs on the north facing wall. 
This allows for winter sun and summer shade. Use a reduced area of glazing on south facing walls. 
​Consider how different rooms will be used during the day.
Plan the house accordingly around this to maximise the benefit of sun throughout the day. 
Use pergolas, deciduous trees and planting in open spaces on the north of the site.
This will provide shade in summer but allow the sun’s warmth in winter. Consider using evergreens in open spaces to the south to offer all year round protection from the wind. 

Place heavy and hard surfaced ‘high thermal mass’ floors in rooms exposed to winter sun.
For example an insulated polished concrete floor slab in rooms exposed to winter sun. These will store the sun’s heat and release it within the house. 

Provide for solar panels for hot water or electricity.
A north facing sloping roof is the most efficient place to locate panels. Locate and shape the building so its north side receives sun between 9am and 3pm in winter.

Protect the house from cold south-westerly winds, but open it up to the cooling effect of the warmer north-easterlies.
These are Auckland’s prevailing winds, but they may differ according to local conditions on your site. A diffusing screen, such as a hedge, will give better wind shelter than a solid one. ​​
Design the building to have a range of usable outdoor spaces.
This offers a choice depending on the wind direction and time of the year. 

Large concrete areas, such as driveways, can reflect a great deal of heat.
Consider reducing the area, changing materials or using landscaping to shade the surface.

Rules of Thumb

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