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field report

a gmh magazine

Article

300 days of sunshine

For Colorado natives this might be a key component to making the decision to jump on the solar power bandwagon.

Contributors

Gregory M Houston – Author

Various – Photographer/Illustrator

Colorado is one of the sunniest states in the nation with an annual average of 300 days of sunshine. This can be misleading because to most of us this means most of the day consists of sunlight. Not true. The 300 days of sunshine consist of days throughout the year that have at least one hour of sunshine. Clear? For Colorado natives this might be a key component to making the decision to jump on the solar power bandwagon.

The “green” movement, or charge to utilize sustainable design, is a lifestyle committed to consuming less of our natural resources. There are two design methods when it comes to sustainable design, passive design and active design. At GMH By Design, a licensed Colorado architecture practice, we always look at ways to create projects which use passive sustainable design.

sustainable design
Sustainabe Design – Passive Design

Passive design responds to local climate and site conditions to maximize the building occupant’s comfort while minimizing energy use.

Harnessing renewable sources of energy such as sun, wind and geothermal energy to provide household heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting, allows us to reduce the need for mechanical heating or cooling. Using passive design can reduce temperature fluctuations, improve indoor air quality and make a home drier and more enjoyable to live in.

Passive design has been part of an architects’ nomenclature since time began. Vitruvius discusses passive design in his Ten Books On Architecture.

The best ways to passively design a building are to:

  • properly locate and orient the building on the site
  • create a floor plan to take advantage of solar heating and natural light
  • use windows with the proper insulation value
  • use exterior architectural a natural features for shading and ventilation
sustainable design
Sustainable Design – Active Design

Active design requires the addition of elements which create energy from natural resources. It uses the sun, wind, and geothermal energy but actively acquires it using photovoltaic panels and wind turbines to utilize those resources.

Active features typically require a financial investment from the building’s owner. However, the return on investment can be great assuming the architect and builder have taken into consideration many of the things required for passive design.

Ways to actively design a building are to:

  • provide photo-voltaic panels
  • use wind turbines to generate energy
  • the use of geothermal energy to heat and power buildings

Because of the initial cost to implement active design practices, it is often difficult to convince clients to spend the money on these elements.

Sustainable Design – solar power market

According to a recent Denver Business Journal article solar panel prices may stabilize this year. This is good news considering the volatility of the market over the past few years. In addition, it is expected that the market will grow to $134 billion annually by 2020. Also, the solar panel industry is shifting from Europe to the United States.

The problem is many of the market drivers are government-set renewable energy goals. Politically derived goals are always volatile…moving targets that change with popular public opinion.

sustainable design