Passive Solar Heating

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The 20,000 ft2 Congregation Beth David Synagogue in San Luis Obispo, California, was completed in 2006 at a cost of $161/ft2. Measured energy consumption shows 82% savings compared with a standard Title-24 building in California—and a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions. A combination of direct gain and water walls, with effective shading, provides passive solar heating, daylighting, natural cooling, and natural ventilation.

By Alex Wilson

I was fortunate to have been involved in the glory days of the passive solar energy movement. In the late 1970s I worked in Santa Fe for the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, which was at the epicenter of the burgeoning movement to create buildings that relied on south-facing glass, integrated thermal mass, and carefully designed building geometries to deliver heat in the winter and maintain natural cooling in the summer. We thought we had the answers to the world’s energy woes. It was a heady time.


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