Does this scene sound familiar? A culture facing an environmental crisis. Their primary building resource — wood — was in high demand for ships and buildings, making the primary heat source for comfort — charcoal — increasingly scarce and expensive. This was the situation that faced the Greeks in the 5th century B.C.E. Most of the Greek peninsula and the islands had been denuded so they were forced to import wood from faraway places. This drove the ancient architects to reevaluate how they built their buildings.

Passive Solar and Zero Energy Homes

The marriage of passive solar design with zero energy homes makes cost-effective heating and cooling possible. Solar is simultaneously the first and last thought in a zero energy home. Orientation comes first, enabling the building to take the fullest advantage of the sun. The last thought is where and how much solar hot water and photovoltaics (PVs) to put on the building to make up the last of the loads that can’t be provided by the design and operation of the home. The less solar equipment required, the more cost effective the construction costs of the home.

Getting to Zero

Passive solar design is much easier to apply in new buildings than in existing homes. Virtually every zero energy house in colder climates has taken full advantage of passive solar heating potential; up to 60% of the heating load can be met through passive solar design.

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