Design Principles

The concept of solar architecture is nothing new. The ancient Greeks utilized the benefits of the sun some 2,500 years ago. With the short supply of wood as fuel they found it necessary to build their houses to take advantage of the sun´s rays during the moderately cool winters, and to avoid the sun´s heat during the hot summers.

Excavations of many Classical Greek cities show that solar architecture flourished throughout Ancient Greece.

Individual homes were oriented toward the southern horizon, (northern horizon in the southern hemisphere ) and entire cities were planned to allow their citizens equal access to the winter sun.

The Greeks venerated the sun, and believed that exposure to the sun nurtured good health. Thus solar architecture became a cultural necessity.

They built their homes so that the winter sunlight could easily enter the house through a south facing portico ( north facing in the southern hemisphere ) similar to a covered porch. The main rooms in the house were warmed by the rays of the sun streaming through the portico, but were sheltered from the cold winds from the north..

Today solar architecture is undergoing a resurgence as more people not only recognize the comfort benefits and lower energy bills of solar architecture, but now see a way of helping reduce the polluting effects of green house gases through less reliance on fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

Basic house design principles include:

Orientation of the main living areas towards the north.

Glazing used to trap the sun´s warmth.

Thermal mass to store the heat from the sun.

Insulation to reduce heat loss or heat gain.

Ventilation to capture cooling breezes.

A well designed solar home should remain within 18 degrees C to 28 degrees C throughout the year and save 60% to 70% in average household heating costs.

Northcliffe Residence
Temperate Climate


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Read more about Passive Solar Heating and Passive Cooling.


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