Big Steps In Building: Stop Ignoring Orientation And Sun Control

solar control image

Image credit Florida Solar Energy

There are some very simple moves one can make to reduce the amount of energy a house uses, that any builder in America could do without adding much to the cost of a house. Builders ignore orientation, window placement and cross ventilation, all of which can make a huge difference. Customers buy plans or houses and don't even think about which way they are facing.

One reason might be that they don't have the tools. Kris De Decker of Low-tech Magazine points us to a toolbox provided by Seattle Consultant Christopher Gronbeck's site Sustainable By Design.

sun angle calcualtor

Screen shot, Sun angle calculator

It is not like it is rocket science, figuring out how high the sun is, or how deep an overhang should be. You can even calculate the heat gain through your windows. The energy savings that accrue from figuring this out before you build are huge.

energy star

But if you look at Energy Star, so proud of how much energy the program is saving, there is not a peep about orientation or solar control. Not even a mention that I could find.

LEED does consider the issue:


But that should really be the minimum requirement for any house. The simplest, most basic design tools of all, orientation and shading, are completely ignored in favour of adding stuff, more insulation, more expensive windows.

This is just stupid. Builders of Energy Star have to do heat loss calculations and submit them for review; they can do orientation and shading calculations. It should be a requirement of ANY energy conservation program that designers and builders have looked at orientation, have done overhang calculations, and have demonstrated that they have taken measures to take advantage of orientation to either minimize heat gain in the south, or design for passive heat gain in the north.

The tools are out there; designers should use them.

NOTE: This post originally suggested that LEED did not address the issue. I have corrected.

More on Low-tech big steps in building
12 Big Steps to Make Building Better

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