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Passive solar design guidance

This report provides guidance on how to incorporate passive solar design principles into future government building projects. By using passive solar design principles, the government aims to ensure that future government buildings are designed to be healthier and more environmentally sustainable.

Executive Summary

This guidance document has been prepared for the Ministry for the Environment to assist the Govt3 programme’s members. It provides guidance on how to incorporate passive solar design principles into future government building projects. Govt3 organisations will see significant reductions in energy use and improvements in internal environmental quality by using good passive solar design principles.

This document is one of a suite of guidance documents published by the Ministry for the Environment. Readers should also read the guidance relating to integrated whole building design and best practice building commissioning, available from the Ministry’s website. Using all three guidance documents will help Govt3 organisations achieve and maintain buildings with good environmental performance over their lease term or life.

Buildings designed with passive solar principles have reduced operating costs, improved internal environments and higher user satisfaction. Increased user satisfaction leads to decreased absenteeism, fewer sick days and reduced staff turnover, which reduces payback times on any capital premium further.

Upfront capital cost premiums vary from project to project depending on the particular strategies employed. Passive design strategies should not add to these costs compared to a similar high-grade construction project using conventional strategies. Some features used to maximise the effectiveness of passive design do carry a cost premium, while others can reduce upfront costs.

This guidance document includes descriptions of passive strategies such as daylighting, shading, thermal mass, glass, insulation, and natural ventilation. There is also a brief discussion of the use of computer simulation. While each strategy is discussed separately, designers need to recognise the large degree of interaction between all aspects of passive solar design. For a building to perform successfully, the building’s design needs to be considered as a whole, rather than as a collection of discrete, standalone features.

This guidance document also includes a summary checklist for design teams to follow when incorporating passive solar design into a building project. The design team should also refer to the body of the document for background to the underlying principles, design considerations and strategies at each stage.

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