Today environmental consciousness is becoming more of a priority in residential architecture and design, as consumers realize the seriousness of climate change in our world. Extreme weather conditions such as the recent frigid winter in the Midwestern part of the United States, water shortages due to a drought on the West coast, and increased weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes are causing concern. These facts combined with rising costs for warming and cooling our homes has spurred engineers, architects and builders to explore new methods for natural cooling and heating. The economic motivation for passive design and engineering is becoming more significant.
Passive cooling, in conjunction with architecture, refers to a naturally cooled building that does not use any energy-consuming technology or devices – no air conditioners - for maintaining a comfortable inside temperature. Some of the more common ways to passively cool a house include using ventilation from natural breezes, sheltering from the sun, and the implementation of a water source, all of which help cool the air and loser the temperature.
What is now known as the Passive House Standard is an environmentally friendly concept that was originally developed by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, a German physicist, who are credited with building the first passive house in Germany in 1990.
In the United States, the first accredited passive house is located just outside of Salt Lake City. The Breezeway House is a 2,800 sq. foot modern, three bedroom house built with solar passive design that provides about 75 percent of the home’s energy requirements. This includes super tight insulation, a solar system on the roof and natural, “non-mechanical” ventilation.
Passive solar building house plans and designs feature walls, floors and windows that are made to collect, store and distribute solar energy – rejecting heat in the summer and distributing solar energy in the form of heat during colder winter months. Passive solar design is also known as climatic and does not the use any electrical or mechanical devices.
One of the keys to passive solar architecture is for the architect to effectively design by taking advantage of the local climate. Design elements such as window placement and the type of glazing used; shaded ventilation, and enabling the movement of air and water.
LEFT: Similar in design to the home at the left, The Winged House is an example of passive cooling thanks to two large overhanging wings that serve as the structure’s roof and provide natural ventilation. (Photo credit: iAlicante Mediterranean Homes on Unsplash)
Consumers who are interested in building their new home with passive solar design techniques should consult an architect, because it can typically be applied most new structures, and many existing homes can be adapted or "retrofitted" for passive solar design. Builders use tools like thermography and digital thermal imaging cameras for an energy audit of a home, charting architectural areas of poor thermal performance during warm or cold weather. Another tool often used by architects is called a heliodon, which is a traditional movable light device helping to model the effects of sun pathways.
Passive solar energy designs feature house plans that are built with carefully arranged rooms situating any living areas facing solar noon, while bedrooms are placed on the opposite side of the home.
Now 3D computer graphics are capable of visually stimulating this type of information and data so as to be able to calculate performance predictions.
The Plan Collection (www.theplancollection.com) has introduced its new 3D Printing of house plans, enabling customers to print out a physical 3D house plan model. The 3D printing technology uses software files to effectively convert computer-aided-design (CAD) blueprints into an actual physical model of a home. This process allows home builders and owners to get physical 360-degree views of their house plan from both external and internal perspectives and offers better details of the actual home than renderings or blueprint images.
Customers can locate a floor plan package, and then order a 3D file, ready for printing, which they would take to a local printer. Home builders can use 3D printing to print out a 3D model of the house plans.