As the residential new build market continues to move towards green and energy efficient options, Net Zero construction is picking up speed. Net Zero houses—those that generate as much energy as they consume—are becoming increasingly common. There are even entire Net Zero subdivisions being built in Texas cities these days.
When building a Net Zero house, it’s important to ensure it is designed to be as energy efficient as possible from the very beginning before adding renewable energy systems. By reducing a home's energy requirements, Net Zero is easier to achieve.
That's where passive design can come into play.
Using smart building materials to manage heat fluctuations throughout the day, passive design harnesses natural elements to drive energy efficiency and reduce costs.
In Texas, architects are often looking for passive design solutions that help cool homes in the summer and keep them warm in the winter. To achieve this, passive design must focus on building orientation, size, and configuration of windows, and materials and systems that can both heat and cool homes based on seasonal and daily variations.
Managing Direct Energy Gains
Given the large temperature swings throughout the day and the mix of heating and cooling days, Texas is ideally suited to passive house design. In passive design, buildings in the northern hemisphere are designed with south-facing windows to bring in as much sunlight and heat as possible into the home in the winter.
In the summer, shading systems over these windows block direct sunlight from entering the home, keeping the inside cooler. With more than 300 sunny days in El Paso each year, there's a lot of energy to be gained and the home could be overheated without precautions. Passive houses often incorporate triple-glazed windows, as well as overhangs and shading, to avoid overheating.
For instance, this passive house uses traditional-looking overhangs above windows in direct sunlight, while still incorporating the architectural feel of the home.
Landscaping can also be used to help manage direct energy gains. In colder climates, shade from trees can be a limitation to solar heating, but on hot Texas summer days, strategically planted trees can help manage solar overheating.