Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Review the: Simple Facts • Benefits • Design Elements • Construction Elements
Benefits of Sun-Inspired Design
Using the natural energy of the sun to warm a home in winter and brighten it year-round is common sense. The sun's energy is free, abundant, and clean. There is no "greener" energy source than the sun.
Sunny Interiors
There's a reason it's impossible to use the term "sunny" in a negative way. Sunlight livens up interiors, provides ever-changing light patterns, makes for psychologically healthy rooms (there's a reason people get the "blahs" during winter) and makes a home feel larger. Properly placed windows balance daylight to reduce glare and create comfortable interiors. Absorbing the warmth of the sun's rays while nestled in a window seat makes home owners (and their animals) very happy.
Energy Savings
There's no need to buy what the sun provides for free. Allowing the sun into a home can greatly reduce the need to purchase energy for heating and lighting. Sun Plans' home designs incorporate this passive solar energy.
Just facing the wall of ANY house with the most windows to the south can cut annual space heating bills by about 10%, but if the south windows are not properly shaded by an overhang, the cooling bills can be higher and the net energy use could increase.
With sun-inspired designs that are designed to capture the sun, the savings can be greater:
And sun-inspired homes are more comfortable inside. Thermal mass inside the home stores the sun's heat to prolong the ability of it to release heat past daylight hours. Thermal mass also prevents the house from overheating on sunny winter days. Although too much thermal mass can hurt a homes comfort by not releasing the heat fast enough, even a little thermal mass can go a long way to preventing overheating on the sunny winter days.
Passive Cooling
Utilizing breezes and the natural flow air to cool a home in summer is working with other natural, passive elements. The wind's energy is free, abundant, clean and attractive. The house designs from Sun Plans have a variety in the amount of "stack" effect and passive cooling performance. Homes with the greatest distance between the lowest floor (including the basement) and the highest interior roof peak (including an atrium or clerestory) have the greatest potential for passive cooling when windows, high and low, are open. One story designs by the nature of their design have the least stack-effect. Some of those designs have daylight cooling chimneys added (see FAQ). In any case, opening windows on opposite sides of the home or on opposite sides of a room will increase cooling. Window placement for such type of passive cooling during the mild seasons of the year is just one more design strategy of Sun Plans.
Closer to Nature
Warmth and light from the sun, and breezes from the wind, stimulate the senses. Windows bring us closer to nature, increasing our physical and mental health. A light breeze from an open window can be refreshing. The windows that Sun Plans typically illustrates are the easy to open type. It can be just as stimulating to feel daylight and temperature changes as it can be to see the sky change with the seasons. Views of scenic hills or meadows allow the mind to travel out beyond the walls of the home to bring relaxation. And, while sun-inspired homes do incorporate various amounts of outdoor living spaces to allow for even further escape to the outdoors, porches are carefully placed so as to block as little sun and light as possible from the interiors.
Comfortable Interiors
So, it's all about comfort. Sun-Inspired homes have comfortable interiors in terms of temperature and light. And isn't this what the "comfort of home" is all about?
(Sun Plans incorporates passive solar, passive cooling, energy-efficient construction, green building and sustainability in varying degrees based on the desires of the original client. Many of them also planned to use the sun's energy to heat water, generate electricity and dry clothes. Therefore, the homes are frequently designed to allow for the easy integration of active solar systems.)