Passive Design Elements in Action – For Better or For Worse

It looks like good old Vancouver weather is back.  Only a few days of cooler, cloudy weather, and we are already noticing its effect on our comfort both outside and in.  My apartment is a beautiful, but drafty and poorly insulated, heritage building.  The incredible amount of shade from surrounding trees and the ability to cross ventilate are great for keeping things nice and cool during the few short weeks of summer heat.  However, not so great the rest of the year.  Solar heat does not find its way in, and generated heat seeps right out, through the walls, floors, joints and roof.

Some times it is easier to notice uncomfortable spaces rather than comfortable ones – my chilly apartment, for example, or an overheating south-facing unit in a downtown glass tower.  But there are many ways to optimize the effects of various architectural elements to create spaces that are appropriate for the climate and adapt to the weather, leaving us comfortable all year round – without relying so heavily on cranking the heat or AC.

Passive Design is defined as an approach to building design that uses the building architecture to minimize energy consumption and improve thermal comfort.  Key concepts include building orientation and glazing placement, thermal mass, overhangs and shading devices, cross ventilation, and insulation.

As I begin to layer on the sweaters, I feel particularly good about being a part of green building projects that will keep their future occupants comfortable all year round.