Should Builders Pay More Attention to the Sun?

solar cells for solar energyScorching heat waves this summer have pressed some to question whether developers should be looking at better ways to build to sustain the heat. For the most part, buildings use machines to keep them cool. But are there ways with the architecture or even the home’s orientation that could keep them cooler on their own?

Sun-based design of roofs and roof overhangs, facades, and fenestration can help make a building cooler, writes Roger K. Lewis, an architect and professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, for The Washington Post. Shutters can be used to block the sun too.

“During many days of the year, being able to open and close exterior shutters on windows facing south, east, and west is an effective means for warm-weather solar control,” The Washington Post reports. “Yet almost all shutters flanking residential windows are cosmetic and non-functional.”

A home’s lot orientation can also be key. However, yard dimensions and building setbacks on individual parcels and lots often disregard solar orientation, Lewis notes. But sun and shade conditions can greatly affect home owners’ gardening possibilities as well as even their enjoyment of their outdoor spaces.

Builders can use solar orientation to their advantage in design, Lewis writes.  Not only through solar panels to allow for cheaper utility bills, but the design of the home may also make a home more comfortable to its owners.

“Facades as a whole, window designs and habitable spaces — porches, balconies, decks and terraces — that are part of and extend facade compositions should capture desirable winter sun while blocking out or filtering unwanted summer sun,” Lewis writes. “Dimensionally adequate roof overhangs can shade exterior walls exposed to the sun to reduce air conditioning loads. Deciduous shade trees on the southeast, south and southwest sides of a house or low-rise building are especially effective in providing warm-weather solar control.”

Source: “Architectural Features Make It Easier for Buildings to Battle Sun,” The Washington Post