When organisations are able to incorporate environmental management within construction work, it can bring many benefits with it. These include cost-effectiveness, new investment and a positive corporate image.

One of the leading ways in which construction can promote sustainable building is through passive solar design. Although workers in the construction industry are often limited by planning permission and the requirements of clients, passive solar design can be offered as an energy efficient solution to construction needs. But what is it, how does it work and what are the benefits?

HLS Training wants to break down the basics.

What is passive solar design?

Passive solar design incorporates energy efficiency into the fabric of a building’s construction. It uses the location of the building’s site location, materials and climate to minimise energy usage first, and then applies solar panels to generate a small portion or the full remainder of energy consumption.

How does passive solar design work?

Passive solar design collects heat from the sun as it shines through south facing windows. It is then stored in ‘thermal mass’ – materials that hold heat.

In order for passive solar home design to work efficiently, it must contain the following elements:

  1. South-facing windows: Windows that collect thermal energy should be south-facing with a margin of 30° without the obstruction of trees during high sun.
  2. Thermal mass: A material that stores heat, usually concrete, brick, stone or tile. It absorbs heat from the sun in warm months and from warm air during cooling season. A well insulated home will make these materials even more efficient.
  3. Distribution methods: Solar heat is stored in areas of the home separate to solar panels. To transfer it effectively, a method of convection, conduction or radiation is needed. This could be fans, blowers or sun heated floors. Dark surfaces absorb more heat than lighter surfaces so are ideal for simulating radiation from solar heat.
  4. Heat control mechanisms: During summer months, sun heat travelling through south facing windows can be intense so a method of shading is required. Many designs opt for shades, electronic sensing, roof overhangs and insulating blinds.


Construction site for passive solar design

Construction site for passive solar design

Passive solar homes must be located in an area where the south facing side of the property has unobstructed access to the sun.

On a construction site that is focussed on creating passive solar homes, shrubbery, trees and the potential for further building to the south of the property must be considered before settling. Any of the above could obstruct the efficiency of the property.

There may be the option to protect the landowners space to prevent future obstruction to the site.

Benefits of passive solar design

  1. Energy efficient

Passive solar design allows buildings to access more energy for less effort. It takes away some of the emphasis on a traditional heating system, and can act as a back up if the main source of energy fails.

  1. Saves money

Solar power is a free source of energy that takes up little space in your home. Harnessing solar energy helps individuals live more energy efficient lives whilst reducing costs on heating and cooling their home.

  1. Environmental gain

Investing in passive solar design promotes the use of renewable energy and minimises carbon emissions making it an eco-friendly method of constructing homes. It’s only source of energy comes from the sun that naturally shines on properties, no matter what.

  1. Stylish design

Passive solar design can open up a pathway to more modern, nature connected architecture. With a south-facing window, homeowners are able to experience natural lighting in their house.

The benefits of having large, open spaces within a home that are bordered by a wall-to-wall window are growing in popularity and passive solar design can achieve this feeling.

  1. Quieter living space

Heating systems such as boilers and air conditioning units can be noisy and obtrusive to daily life. Because passive solar design relies solely on sun rays, it is a completely silent and unobstructive method of improving energy efficiency within construction.

If your team is interested in learning more about environmental responsibilities within the construction industry, HLS Training has you covered. Our CITB Site Environmental Awareness Training Scheme covers the basic environmental knowledge required by the subcontract chain and various suppliers.

Book your course today.