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Green Architects' Lounge

Architects Discuss Passive Solar Design

Green Architects’ Lounge: Chris, Phil, and Jesse explain how the sun can help heat your house

Drink of the Week: A growler of Marshall Wharf Brewing Company's Philadelphia Brown Ale. Every week on the Green Architects’ Lounge hosts Chris Briley and Phil Kaplan sample a tasty beverage and discuss green building and design issues in a casual, pithy format.

It’s time once again to share a drink with our two podcasting Maine architects, Chris Briley and Phil Kaplan. In the latest episode of their Green Architects’ Lounge series, Chris and Phil discuss passive solar design as they sip glasses of Philadelphia Brown Ale.

After explaining why the glass used for beer bottles should have a low solar heat gain coefficient, Chris and Phil get down to business. Their relaxed conversation covers four main topics:

  • How to orient buildings properly
  • Why thermal mass can be useful
  • How to size south-facing windows
  • How to shade south-facing windows in the summer with roof overhangs.

In this episode, Chris and Phil decide to leave their comfortable chairs and go to the basement to chat with fellow architect Jesse Thompson. True to character, Jesse explains what’s bothering him. He’s irked by tinkerers and engineer-types who make passive solar houses too complicated.

“We know how to do great buildings,” Jesse explains. “They don’t require fancy tricks or magic machines. We know how to get 99% of the way to our goal with just air sealing and good insulation, so we don’t need sand beds, fans, or double-envelope houses. A house should be simple. It shouldn’t require the homeowner to tune it like a sailboat.”

Chris also shares this episode’s six-digit idea: a cold-climate refrigerator cooled by outdoor air.

Click here to enjoy the first episode of the Green Architects’ Lounge: “Architects Talking About Air Barriers.”


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