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O’Brien, Kesik and Athienitis define passive solar heating of homes as the process from which oncoming solar radiation from the sun is absorbed by glazed openings in a house then re-emitted into the interior, thus warming the air and the overall temperature for the occupants(2014,101). The trapped air is remitted at night when no solar radiation is being absorbed. This results in cooler temperatures during the day and warmer temperatures at night as the heat escapes. With climate change advancing as rapidly as it is, architects should incorporate the use of passive solar design in homes and apartments in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst reducing energy expenses for the occupants of said homes. Elbakheit (2018, 251-265) argues that passive solar design can reduce energy costs by being both a source of natural lighting and a natural heating system for the occupants. Nanda and Panigrahi (2016, 347-354) state that passive solar heating produces significantly less greenhouse emissions compared to typical heating and cooling methods. Finally, O’Brien, Kesik and Anthienitis (2014) believe passive solar design to be the most effective and simplest method for achieving low or net zero energy design. These three elements are relevant for architects in promoting passive solar design towards their clients as it is beneficial to both society and the environment. Thus, architects are on the forefront in promoting passive solar design to their clients as it reduces energy expenses, greenhouse emissions and is a way to easily approach net zero energy design.
One of the greatest benefits of passive solar design is the reduced energy costs associated with the build. Traditional houses require the use of air conditioning or gas heaters to create a comfortable temperature year-round. Research from Nanda and Panigraphi in 2016 found the total energy requirement for buildings was 35.3% of the total available energy from which a large portion was dedicated to heating and cooling (2016,347). Air conditioners alone are usually run for 3 to 7 months of the year in Australia and use roughly 3.5 kilowatt hours in a 3-hour day, costing roughly $30 a month (energyusecalculator) and, on average, $150 a year. This figure fluctuates during warmer periods with air conditioners sometimes running for 9 hours in one day. Due to the concept of passive solar design that draws energy through renewable sources to heat and cool a building, such as double glazing north facing windows or planting a few deciduous trees around the site, a reduced energy cost is created as no power is required to achieve a desirable temperature. Another reduction in electricity expenses, highlighted by Elbakheit (2018, 251-265), is generated by using the natural light source from the sun that comes through the large area of windows facing the equator that are used for the passive solar process. This means less artificial light is needed during sunlight hours and it takes longer for it to be dark enough to need to turn on the lights, thus reducing the running time and costs. The use of passive solar design results in reduced electrical expenses in buildings it’s incorporated in.
Passive solar heating systems not only generate less costs than traditional heating methods but also produced little to no greenhouse gas emissions. Schwartz (2018) states the greenhouse effect to be a natural process that reflects some oncoming solar radiation and absorbs the rest and reemits it into the atmosphere, providing warmth to the planet’s surface. It is essential in helping maintain life on earth for without it the earth would be far too cold for life to live on the surface. The natural greenhouse effect doesn’t have much of an impact on the environment, but the enhanced, or intensified greenhouse effect caused by human industrialisation processes can cause major shifts in Earth’s climate and affect many natural processes due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. An example of a natural process affected by this change is the various underwater currents responsible for heating up various countries, like England, that without this stream of warm water would begin to cool off significantly, affecting the ability of those areas to grow crops and support life. Since the currents are primarily driven by differences in water temperature an enhanced greenhouse effect would reduce this difference and cause the current to slow down and eventually come to a stop. The most popular methods for heating and cooling in houses are gas heating and air conditioning systems respectively. Gas heating usually burns natural gas, petroleum or butane. When these gases are burnt water vapour and other harmful aerosols are emitted into the atmosphere. Water vapour absorbs oncoming solar radiation and remits it towards the earth’s surface while the greenhouse gases trap the heat reflected by the earth. This results in the melting of the ice caps, shifts in climate and rainfall, slower water currents and increased power usage from warmer temperatures. Air conditioners emit small amounts of Hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs, a man-made chemical composed up of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and fluorine that individually don’t contribute much to the greenhouse effect. They can last thousands of years due to their high stability, causing them to accumulate in the atmosphere and trap reflected solar radiation, resulting in the impacts of climate change. Passive solar design, however, doesn’t need to release any of these greenhouses gases in its process of generating heat. One of the four technologies for solar heating Nanda and Panigrahi (2016) talk about in their research is the Trombe wall. The Trombe wall is externally glazed that has a pocket air that flows between it. During hotter periods the cool air flows between the walls and helps to insulate the inside of the building while during cool periods an adjustable dampener is used to trap the air inside the walls. As the solar radiation is absorbed by the walls, the trapped air begins to heat up and warm up the inside of the house. This process doesn’t need to produce any greenhouse gases during its heating or cooling process. The architect must consider the impact of the greenhouse emissions normally released through typical heating methods and the benefits of passive solar heating for the environment and the people.
Architects should be promoting passive solar design in the home environment as it is the simplest way towards approaching net zero energy usage and a brighter future. Zhang (2014) believes a net-zero energy building that achieves both zero net energy use, by producing the at least the amount it uses, and zero Carbon emissions per year. This means that the building is self-sufficient in producing its own energy, usually through renewable means. Passive solar design is the simplest method in achieving this goal as it can easily be incorporated in a buildings design. Elbakheit (2018, 251-265) states that passive solar design can be achieved through building a house in north south orientation, allowing the largest elevation with the greatest window surface area face the north or south, depending on where the equator lies. By doing so, during winter the sun’s rays will be at the lowest angle and allow more solar radiation to be absorbed by the windows, generating more heat inside. In summer, the opposite occurs with the sun’s rays coming in from a higher angle, resulting in less solar radiation penetrating the windows due to a solar shading overhang and keeping the inside cooler. The overhang is cut to a certain length so it affects the summer solar radiation and allows the winter solar radiation to pass through. Another idea brought up by Elbakheit is the use of a vertical growth of greenery on a north or south facing wall in warmer environments. This layer of greenery also absorbs oncoming solar radiation, causing the building it’s grown along to absorb less energy and reduce temperatures.
The architect’s role in creating a sustainable future through building design can be realized using passive solar heating being incorporated in a domestic environment. Using passive solar designs, the architect can reduce energy expenses for clients, create reduced greenhouse gas emissions, slowing down the process of anthropogenic climate change, and providing a simple alternative to clients for achieving net zero energy usage. The passive solar design process generates its own heat through renewable and environmentally friendly means and creates comfortable temperatures, removing the need for heater or air conditioners. Traditional heating and cooling methods give off greenhouse gases that contribute to the overall effect of global warming whilst passive solar design releases no air pollutants through its process that may assist the enhanced greenhouse effect. Being as simple as choosing the orientation of building a house or growing vine along a wall, the idea and goal of passive solar design, according to O’Brien, Kesik and Anthienitis (2014), is to minimise purchased heating and peak heating load while ensuring the indoors doesn’t overheat from excessive gains or have excessive heat escape from windows, allows for a realistic approach to achieving net-zero energy. Overall, architect’s must clearly promote the benefits of passive solar design towards their clients, in terms of its importance towards the environment and society.
- Elbakheit, Abdel Rahman. 2018. “A Framework Towards Enhanced Sustainable Systems Integration Into Tall Building Design” Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research 12 (1): 251-265 http://dx.doi.org/10.26687/archnet-ijar.v12i1.1272
- Energy Use Calculator. n.d Electricity Central AC(website). Accessed April 12, 2019.
- Nanda, Arun Kumar and C K Panigrahi. 2016 “A State-of-the-Art Review of Solar Passive Building System For Heating or Cooling Purpose” Font Energy 2016 10 (3): 347-354 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11708-016-0403-0
- O’Brien, William, Ted Kesik and Andreas Anthienitis. 2014. “Solar Design Days: A Tool for Passive Solar House Design” ASHRAE Transactions 120 (1) https://carleton.ca/hbilab/wp-content/uploads/Solar-Design-Days.pdf
- Schwartz, Stephen E. 2018 “The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change: Earth’s Natural Greenhouse Effect” American Association of Physics Teachers 86(565) http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.5045574
- Zhang, Zhijun. 2014 “Research on the Design and Construction of Zero-Energy Building” Applied Mechanic and Materials 587-589(224-227) http://dx.doi.org/10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.587-589.224
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