Passiv House

This week we looked at buildings as an envelope and how to create a passiv house.
We looked at the different ways that we get heat gain- with people as being one of them: (Others being direct solar, transmission due to temperature differences, plants, latent heat, lights and appliances):


I found this chart very interesting as it shows that it is especially important to think about the function of a building to decide how to heat it. If you are designing a gym, for example, then you have to have less additions of heat into it as the people themselves are a large heat gain.

In class we also talked about a passiv house- a house that has multi-layered construction that is energy efficient and uses less external energy and can be heated by the appliances within it. This was particularly interesting to me because in my studio at the moment I am looking at a passiv house and how to make a similar energy efficient house but one that is cheaper to make. One of the features of a passiv house is that it has triple glazing on the windows- this is something that is expensive to create but does reduce energy transfer. I therefore looked up the passiv haus standards and was looking up more information about them.


The basic principles of a passive house are:
– Good levels of insulation with minimal thermal bridges
– Passive solar gains and internal heat sources
– Excellent level of airtightness
– Good indoor air quality, provided by a whole house mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery


This website has a lot of general information about the aims of a passive house and how the aim is to make them commercial and industrial- not just residential. I also found many examples of passive houses:


Assignment 6:

For this assignment, I was trying to think of a contrast in thermal sensation that I often experience, and I was at first trying to think of one that was positive. The moment of standing infront of a fan on a boiling hot day, or stepping inside- to warm room after being drenched in rain. I instead decided to focus on the contrast when, on a hot summers day, you are walking through the grocery store and hit the ‘freezer’ isle. This sensation, despite knowing that you will have to walk through it, is always more unpleasant than you remember, especially on a hot day where you are dressed and ready for the sun.

Looking at a typical Charlottesville summer, the temperature is normally around 85 degrees, with a humidity level of 70%. This is not a very comfortable heat, and therefore, people are often looking forward to the air conditioning of a building/a car, for a fan or a cold breeze.
Walking from a parking lot to the building you are walking on asphalt, which is known for absorbing lots of heat. It is a hot material and therefore the introduction into the cooler flooring of a concrete/marble floor of the supermarket is one of the changes of materiality that are experienced.
Temperature-wise, you are going from a hot, 85 degree temperature to a cooler, but still hot threshold of late 70s in the entrance of the grocery. This is a nice change and an even nicer one is going to the cool AC space of the rest of the store. Here there is enough time to climatise to a more static temperature. And then, there is the freezer aisle. With an inside temperature of -5 and a surrounding temperature of 59 degrees, the coldness that radiates off of the freezers is hard to miss and gives an uncomfortable chill.

After drawing out the spaces, I started to think more about the sensation of the place.
During the summer, the freezer aisle is seen as a bigger jump in temperature and more of an uncomfortable feeling than in the winter, when you are already dressed for a cooler climate. I tried to portray that with a sequence of temperature change diagrams.


The first and last bars in this show the external conditions and the darkest blue represents the coldness from the freezer.
The point of this diagram was to show how the difference in temperature would change and be more timid in colder climates, or through getting climatised into the median space for a longer amount of time.

This memory is one that I thought would be interesting to analyse because it is one that happens often but is not thought about very much. The freezers and fridges need to maintain the below freezing temperature to keep the food good, and it is just natural for the area around the freezer to be colder than the rest of the store. It is therefore not a phenomenon that is talked about a lot, but was a contrast in thermal sensations that I thought was interesting.

Importance of Climate in a design

This week in discussion we went around the school and took the temperature and relative humidity reading at various points in the school to see how different spaces vary, and marked them on a psychometric chart. To measure the readings we used temperature guns and kestrals.

The Fourth Floor Terrace, Wood-Shop Spray Station and the Nauge were all three within the comfort zone in the summer. Two of these four of these locations are outdoors and therefore, their position in the comfort chart makes a lot of sense. This shows that they are only comfortable in the winter but as they are on the edge of the comfort zone box, it shows that they are on the brink of not being with it, as later on in the winter they will not be as comfortable as they may be now. The Nauge is a very large space with lots of large glass windows that may contribute to the similar climate of the outside.
The Memorial and the Lecture hall are the two anomalies that did not fit within our comfort zone at all in this exercise. For the Memorial we chose an inner spot that was very shaded and near the hole, so was therefore also susceptible to strong winds. This would therefore make sense that it is colder than our comfort zones would want. The Lecture hall was more of a test out of interest. Due to the air handlers being shut off to avoid asbestos- the room was more humid and hot than it has ever been. We were therefore interested to see how it would fall in this chart. I was very surprised that it is on the brink of being comfortable in the summer as the room felt like a sauna on first entrance into it. However, in the summer, we would not be going from a cold outside to it like we did on Tuesday but instead we would be going from a hot, and possibly humid outside- making it make more sense that the difference in the temperature and humidity levels would not be as different.

Overall, this was a really interesting exercise as it allowed us to analyse some of the spaces that we frequent, but in a new, more technical way.

During class on thursday we did a 5 minute design exercise where, in groups, we have to come up with a passive design for a ‘reading space’. Three of the groups then had to draw their results on the chalkboard in the room and had a mini-critique. I found this to be a very interesting exercise because even in these 5 minutes, we all came up with such varied schemes! The scheme that our group came up with was one of the ones that was drawn on the board, and the problems with our design was that there was no vertical element to help absorb sun in the winter. Our design consisted of a cantilevered concrete roof, with structural columns both on the inside and outside of glass walls. These glass walls had openings in the top of them for ventilation, but a critique that we got was that there should be an opening at the bottom to let cool air in, and that the scheme should not be as symmetrical as we had made it because we had to account for the difference of the sun in the North and the South. This was a very useful exercise as it showed us that by just thinking about one aspect of a scheme you are going to miss a lot of opportunities to make a space more comfortable.

Assignment 5

For Assignment 5, I started off with knowing that I wanted to use PV cells to collect energy from the Sun. I was looking into where I should make my site, and was thinking of somewhere on the west coast, but after the lecture last week where the map of Average Daily Solar Radiation was shown (below), I decided to locate my site in Tucsan, Arizona, because it was a place that received some of the most solar radiation in the US.


After deciding my site, I wanted to make that my choice of solar radiation was correct and therefore looked at various weather resources to get maps and data about Tucsan, Arizona.

I firstly tried to find a general overview of the weather:


These diagrams helped me to decide what months to implement my scheme within. I chose May to October as it seemed like they were months where a lot of solar radiation could be captured. After this decision, I decided to look up the wind speed that Tucsan acquires to see if using wind energy was a possibility.


With these maps, it seemed pretty clear to me that Arizona does not receive as much wind energy as solar energy, and therefore would not be an efficient change/addition onto my energy scheme.

This was the diagram that I made to show the movement of energy from the source, the sun, to the different uses that I chose. I decided to show everything in one diagram rather than in a couple of zoomed in parts so that it was clear to see the system as a whole and how all of the parts relate to one another.

My scheme is to capture solar radiation through the use of PV cells on the roofs of houses. From this, the radiation goes into the PV cells and creates Direct Current. With this current I decided that some of it should be used for the use of electrical appliances that are on 24/7 but do not require a lot of energy such as batter chargers, Smoke alarms and fans. The rest of the energy that does not get used as Direct Current is then put through a transformer that changes the Direct Current to Alternating Current. This alternating current can be used for the other appliances around the house such as the main lighting and a refrigerator. In addition to both of these uses within the house, I thought that the left over electricity could be sold to the National Grid to produce an income for the people living in the house. I am hoping that the amount of sunlight that is created can have many uses, rather than just for tasks such as charging a phone.

After looking at this scheme, I started to think about the heat loss that may happen in PV cells or through anything that uses the sun. My decision, therefore, was to have a heat collector attached to the PV cells that would store the heat generated from the cells and would use it to heat up the water for the house. This would be a third function of the scheme that will hopefully save more money with minimal effort.

In terms of rethinking infrastructure/long-term solutions, I think that PV cells are a good addition to all houses in sunny areas. Although they are expensive there are many uses to them, and the more that there are the more that one can store excess energy that is created during the day and use it for the evenings.


Free Ride?

This weeks lecture was about the thermal environment. I thought that Shermans discussions on the multiple uses of solar power as very interesting as this is what I am currently exploring for assignment 5.

One of the Images that Sherman used in the lecture was a picture of a Honda car that was used for a competition. (see below)

This image of a car using solar panels on the roof really interested me, and I started too look at the development of this technology. This was a way to use the solar energy as soon as it was received to save money on trying to store this energy or transforming it, which can be ineffective for small amounts of energy.

One of the possible developments that sounds convincing is the addition of solar panels onto the roof of a prius, in which the solar power attained is used for the air conditioning. This seems likely, and although the PV cells would be expensive to put into the car, it would help the car to need less maintenance while running.

Within this field of development, there were also articles about electric cars that with the addition of solar panels could run for 100 miles purely on solar power. This meant that no electricity or any fossil fuels were used in this movement, and all of the energy was obtained by the free, and renewable source of sunlight. This showed another possibility for how to use solar energy more effectively. Obviously, it is not possible to have a car that ONLY runs on solar power as it is provided because there are many interruptions such as clouds, rain, and night time. It is however, a step in the correct direction to utilising all of the renewable resources we have available to us, so that they are not wasted.

Challenges of Design

This week we had a lecture by John Quale about effective design and he showed us specific things to consider when designing houses and he was showing us some of the differences between designing in the east and west coast, and how much of an effect climate has on design.

I found that this followed on with the Addlington reading very well as there it said that the “ultimate task of architecture is to act in favour of man”. It then follows on to talk about the house as an envelope, and how to stimulate and analyse the interior environment. This linked in very well with what Quale was saying as it was again showing the importance of site in the designing process.

Thinking about the informative design led me to think about Frank Lloyd Wright. He designs each of his structures, in particular Fallingwater, to engage with the landscape as much as possible. When designing he not only takes into account the weather and climate (and the insulation needs that arise with that) but he also takes into account the needs of the owner of the house. While designin fallingwater he took into account the lack of ground space he had and the need for a large dwelling, which he had been asked to create. To overcome this confliction he used cantilevered spaces that extend the amount of interior space, but use the same amount of foundation/ground space. His whole sequence of design and the amount that he considered the waterfall he was designing the house on, and the tranquility that that creates, shows the importance of the consideration of a site when designing.

Assignment 4: Bay Game

  1. Components of the system
  • Stakeholders:

i.     Residents of Chesapeake Bay

ii.     People who work around it eg farmers

iii.     Local Government

iv.     Tourists

v.     Small business owners

  • Non Human factors:

i.     Temperature/Climate

ii.     Organisms that grow and live there

iii.     Rainfall

iv.     Conditions of the soil

v.     Sunlight

vi.     Natural disasters- eg earthquakes, hurricanes

  • Interactions that occur among the stakeholders and factors that lead to varying levels of sustainability-related outcomes

i.     Human interactions can cause a lot of damage to the land, through the building up of land, the porosity of the ground changes and leads to an impermeable surface that creates more surface run off. This will then lead to more water being added into the bay, and if trees are being deforested for new development then that leads to less interception of the water and means that it will flow to the bay faster.

ii.     Pollution is a series problem to the bay. The more that we add nitrogen and phosphorous into the air, the harder it is for organisms to continue to live there

iii.     This pollution can also cause a greenhouse affect, which can drastically alter the temperatures in the bay area. Which in turn will affect what kinds of organisms can live there and will lead to an alteration in the farmer’s daily life.


3. What I thought was most interesting about the game was that there were so many different parts all working together and not much communication between each of the parts. This I found funny because we were all sitting next to each other while playing and yet we did not talk that much, therefore when, in real life, there is more of an effort in contacting people, it is easy to see how there is always a lack of communication amongst people/stakeholders. Similarly, it also got frustrating not knowing EXACTLY what you did that either helped/harmed the bay and what others were doing as everything was all happening at the same time

4. I think that a good policy to put in place would be one about pollutants. Being part of Susquehanna River Watershed, Pennsylvania, we were constantly told about how we were not being eco-friendly but weren’t told how to be- a policy in place that would tell you when are producing a lot of pollutants and how to avoid it would be useful. A policy that may be easier to implement though would either be to fine people for the amount of pollutants they are releasing, or to provide positive incentives for being eco-friendly, such as if you plant nitrogen absorbing plants you get some natural fertiliser for free. This such a policy could affect the game in pop-ups when you reach a certain level telling you that you have exceeded your limit of pollutants and then what the options were from there. I think that this would help integrate the economic and environmental aspects of the game together more as the more environmentally friendly you are being the less money you have to pay/the more incentives you receive, showing a direct correlation.