At Carbon Busters, we like our homes to revolve around the Sun in kind. As such, several features of our homes are designed with our solar overlord in mind. One of the biggest considerations is the home’s windows. We use high-performance windows with special glazing that is tuned to each window’s orientation toward the Sun. Most of the windows are placed on the South facing sides, maximising the natural light and solar heat gains within the rooms. However, in the summertime when you’re trying to keep the house cool, isn’t that a bad thing? Very true, that’s why we design overhangs into our buildings so that the high summer Sun can’t pour in directly. We also landscape our homes with deciduous trees sheltering these windows, shading them in the summer. In the winter, the leaves fall off and allow the Sun to passively heat the home.
Windows aren’t the only thing affected by the Sun, though. We also like to put our roofs to use by placing arrays of solar PV. So, we make sure that the building has enough roof space oriented in a South direction to place an array that can offset the building’s annual energy use. Of course, if the site allows for other forms of renewable energy generation, the roof design has more freedom. That said, the vast majority of sites in Canada have enough Sun to make the falling costs of solar PV the most economic option. Designing solar PV into a building’s façade can also be a great option for offsetting annual energy. By replacing conventional siding choices with sections of PV you offset its cost making it even more fiscally prudent.
Another component of buildings that can provide substantial passive heating and cooling is the thermal mass of the building itself. An object’s thermal mass is its ability to retain heat. Some materials like stone, concrete, water, and many more can store thermal energy and then release it over time. By designing certain walls and floors that receive a lot of sunlight, they can then store that solar energy as heat and release it after the Sun goes down. In turn, when the morning comes and the Sun is starting to heat your home, the large thermal mass has cooled down again, absorbing the excess heat that would trigger the cooling system.
We can’t talk about solar design without mentioning the photosynthetic basis of virtually all our food chains. At Carbon Busters, we believe that if our society is to make the shift toward a sustainable future, it’s imperative that homeowners can grow at least a portion of their own food. On a site where we’re building a single detached home this task is relatively simple. We work with landscape architects who practice permaculture techniques to ensure the best possible soil health that helps grow the pristinely fresh produce logistically absent from supermarkets. However, even in our multifamily designs we strive to allow each unit some space to grow. We do this by ensuring each unit has balcony space that gets adequate sunlight during the summer or designating pieces of the courtyard for private garden plots.