earth sheltered passive solar designs

design northwest


why passive solar

Design Northwest has developed a building system that uses solar energy for heating and lighting to produce highly efficient sustainable buildings with dramatically reduced heating and cooling costs. By combining the economy of standard building materials and methods our structures can be built at conventional construction costs.

Passive solar architecture is the art of designing and constructing a building in such a way as to be in harmony with the environment and to take full advantage of the heating and cooling properties of the natural surroundings. Passive solar heating and cooling significantly reduce the energy consumption of a home, office or retail space, through design and the creative arrangement of standard construction materials and methods. The building is the system.

When Design Northwest's award winning Vashon Dental Clinic was initially constructed, the building’s energy consumption was monitored for several years. During the entire monitoring period, the cost of operating the heat pump never exceeded $70 annually. Adjusted for current Northwest energy prices, this represents an annual heating and cooling cost of $130 for the 2600 square foot clinic portion of the building.

When people think of solar energy, they often think of roof mounted photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy to electricity, which can then be used for heating, cooling and lighting the building. Photovoltaic panels are widespread in usage and are becoming an integral aspect of sustainable architecture. However, these systems may take years to amortize and are based on ever changing technologies. We believe passive solar architecture is a more direct and cost effective way of using solar energy to provide for the heating, cooling and lighting needs of a building. With passive solar architecture, the sun’s energy is harnessed and stored directly by the building, through creative design and the use of conventional materials.

Simply put, any building represents a certain financial cost. That cost is contained in the labor and materials used in its construction. Those materials can be arranged into a conventional building that will have predictably higher future energy requirements. Alternatively, those very same materials can be arranged, at no additional cost, into a passive solar structure that will have significantly lower future energy requirements, reducing the building's impact on the environment and the owner's pocket book.


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