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Re: Building facing east vs. south

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  • Rob Tom
    ... Orienting the building as the builder suggests would negate the possibility of at least 50% of potential direct gain passive solar. Beefy levels of
    Message 1 of 8 , Sep 1, 2007
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      --- In SB-r-us@yahoogroups.com, "wijyotishi" <SArjuna@...> wrote:
      >
      > We have purchased property that has a wonderful view to the
      > east on a gentle east-facing slope. I had designed a house to be built
      > with the long side facing the south, but the builder points out [snip]

      Orienting the building as the builder suggests would negate the
      possibility of at least 50% of potential direct gain passive solar.

      Beefy levels of insulation only help to reduce heat loss and unwanted heat
      gain.

      It does nothing to reduce the energy consumed for space heating/cooling
      that building volume, which even though well insulated, will still likely
      require significant inputs in Wisconsin.

      By simply orienting the building properly (and not making any other
      changes to the building envelope), it is entirely possible that
      direct-gain passive solar would reduce the space-heating energy
      requirement by at least 50%.

      I would suggest that the building be re-designed so that it can take
      advantage of the wonderful views AND passive solar potential AND fit the
      site well.

      --
      === * ===
      Rob Tom
      Kanata, Ontario, Canada
      < A r c h i L o g i c at C h a f f Y a h o o dot C a >
      (winnow the chaff from my edress in your reply)
    • Speireag Alden
      ... My house faces a bit east of south and has no windows on the north. In central New Hampshire, in February, when temperatures are sub-zero outside, the
      Message 2 of 8 , Sep 1, 2007
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        Sgrìobh wijyotishi:

        >We have purchased property that has a wonderful view to the
        >east on a gentle east-facing slope. There is still full sun
        >available from the south.
        > I had designed a house to be built with the long side facing the
        >south, but the builder points out that that would mean digging into
        >the hill a lot more, and he recommends building so that the long side
        >faces the great view to the east.
        > He says that if we have good insulation it will not matter much that
        >we don't have the sun shining on the long side of the house. And, as
        >we will have a basement, facing east would allow daylight to come in
        >rooms on the long side of the basement.
        > I'd appreciate some comments from folks here with some experience in
        >this matter. We'll be living with this decision for a long time!

        My house faces a bit east of south and has no windows on the
        north. In central New Hampshire, in February, when temperatures are
        sub-zero outside, the temperature rises inside the house, starting at
        dawn. And that's with a lot of thermal mass inside.

        Without all those south-facing windows, it would not matter how
        much insulation I had; the temperature would not go up, but rather,
        down more slowly.

        So, your builder is wrong in equating solar input to insulation.

        He may well be right that it will require more excavation; that's
        site-dependent, and builders generally understand excavation pretty
        well. Finding a builder who understands solar energy dynamics really
        well is a rare thing.

        You're in luck, though! People tend to prefer morning sun over
        evening sun, especially during those times of the year when you don't
        want to overheat. You don't say where in the country your property
        is, but if you're in a heating climate, you can safely orient your
        building east of south by a fair margin without giving up much solar
        input. How much margin? That gets into judgement of acceptable
        trade-offs, but at 30° of angle, your cosine is only .866, and you've
        front-loaded the energy input toward the start of the day, which
        offsets some of the loss. At 15°, your cosine is .965. My house is
        15° east of south, and I like the more direct morning sun, especially
        in the winter.

        So, perhaps by rotating 15° to 25° you can get some of the
        benefit of reduced excavation (a one-time cost) without giving up the
        solar input benefits (a daily benefit, forever).

        -Speireag.

        --
        Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the
        injury that provokes it.
        --Lucius Annaeus Seneca, philosopher (BCE 3-65 CE)
      • Barbara Roemer & Glenn Miller
        http://www.patternlanguage.com/apl/reviews.htm ... south. I had designed a house to be built with the long side facing the ... Your builder also hasn t
        Message 3 of 8 , Sep 2, 2007
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          http://www.patternlanguage.com/apl/reviews.htm
          Arjuna wrote:

          >We have purchased property that has a wonderful view to the
          >east on a gentle east-facing slope. There is still full sun available from the
          south. I had designed a house to be built with the long side facing the
          >south, but the builder points out that that would mean digging into
          >the hill a lot more, and he recommends building so that the long side
          >faces the great view to the east.
          > He says that if we have good insulation it will not matter much that
          >we don't have the sun shining on the long side of the house. And, as
          >we will have a basement, facing east would allow daylight to come in
          >rooms on the long side of the basement. SNIP

          Your builder also hasn't addressed natural light in considering an
          orientation primarily to the east, though you are thinking about it with
          your daylight basement. You might find it of value to read Christopher
          Alexander's A Pattern Language, one of three books about universally
          appealing patterns in human habitation that seeks to explain what makes us
          feel sheltered, restful, convivial, and at home in a place.

          A building that is oriented to the south with overhangs appropriate to the
          sun angles/latitude/solar gain also takes in natural light all day,
          constantly enlivening the spaces with the changing play of light. When
          combined with the Alexander patterns of Light on Two Sides, Zen View, and
          the idea of Prospect and Refuge (can't remember the pattern name on this
          one, so paraphrased), a building that carefully frames smaller, ever
          changing perspectives of a big view at points of transition rather than
          opening itself through "picture windows," means you never take in all the
          view from one place nor all the light, so your senses are constantly
          delighted by the variety rather than becoming inured to the views. The same
          building captures some eastern light and some southern light for balance,
          and draws us into its use and comfort.
        • SArjuna@aol.com
          I HAVE read Alexander s book, Barbara & Glenn, and have taken all the points you mention into consideration in my house plan. I must say I disagree with his
          Message 4 of 8 , Sep 3, 2007
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            I HAVE read Alexander's book, Barbara & Glenn, and have taken all the
            points you mention into consideration in my house plan.

            I must say I disagree with his idea of going so far as to just give a
            peek of a great view from here and there. Our present dining room has a
            nine-foot wide window that looks out into an area with flowers, ferns, trees....
            and we love it. It is continually changing, as different plants grow/bloom at
            different times. The change in light even makes it different from one hour
            to the next. No danger of becoming "inured to the view" with this kind of
            view.

            Maybe there would be if one's view was a distant view of the ocean or
            something like that. I don't know about that, not having had that experience.

            The big question here, to me, is just how much more wood we will have to
            burn to heat an east-facing house vs. a south-facing one. The property
            has lots of forest, but if gas becomes hard to come by, using a cross-cut saw
            in one's older age is not something to look forward to.

            And the other big question is how bad is it to dig into a hill?
            (Remember that this house is in the area of SW WI that just saw some houses sliding
            down hills.)

            Shivani in WI


            **************************************
            Get a sneak peek of
            the all-new AOL at http://discover.aol.com/memed/aolcom30tour


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Pennbo's
            ... Sorry, been on vacation and coming late into this discussion. I have to disagree on several points with Alexander s viewpoint. His might be the same as
            Message 5 of 8 , Sep 3, 2007
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              >
              >
              >ever changing perspectives of a big view at points of transition rather than
              >opening itself through "picture windows," means you never take in all the
              >view from one place nor all the light, so your senses are constantly
              >delighted by the variety rather than becoming inured to the views. The same
              >building captures some eastern light and some southern light for balance,
              >and draws us into its use and comfort.
              >
              Sorry, been on vacation and coming late into this discussion. I have to
              disagree on several points with Alexander's viewpoint. His might be the
              same as many but it's not the same as ours. One point in particular we
              disagree on. We have a wall of windows facing 'almost' due south. We
              LOVE LOVE LOVE the wide open vista! We have not tired of it in the five
              years we have owned the property nor in the two plus years we've lived
              inside looking out. Now it's true that our terrain outside changes
              rapidly so it's never really the same view. And the LIGHT is the
              absolutely wonderful! All day the entire front of the house is lit with
              natural light. If we want dim we go to the back (north and almost
              windowless) part of the house. It is much like living outside- but with
              the protection of walls. As I sit here at the computer I can look in one
              direction and heavily treed hillside, turn a bit and see open pasture
              with our horses in it, turn more and see a sweeping view of our small
              valley and lake with mountains in the background. What's not to love
              about all that? :-)

              As to east vs south. Go south young woman. :-) Our house is approx 15
              degrees west of due south. That small amount is enough to cut out quite
              a bit of winter sunlight. We still take in quite a bit but we have
              noticed a difference. It probably amounts to about 10 degrees over the
              course of a day. We don't notice the temperature change and our house
              stays an even temp- but we have radiant heating AND a wood stove (which
              is only necessary for looks/charm and if the propane ever runs short).
              We are making the radiant mostly solar so even if the propane is gone it
              will still work sufficiently enough to reduce our dependance on wood.

              Could you build a second story/observation room on the order of a fire
              lookout station? A small room, that can be closed off from the rest of
              the house, and that you can use as living space and that takes advantage
              of the view might be a good compromise. A small wood stove could heat it
              while the rest of your home takes advantage of the solar gain. You
              wouldn't necessarily have to build it out of straw- a stick room with
              good insulation would work. Our front wall (with the windows) is 2x6
              with lots of insulation and very good windows.

              Whatever you decide think it through thoroughly. Designing and building
              your own home is a lesson in compromise but don't compromise on the
              things that are really important to you. Find a way to make them work
              within your larger dream!

              Chris PB
            • Rob Tom
              ... I remember years ago, the Skillful Meany (aka John Swearingen www.skillful-means.com) saying that he thought that the best thing to do with Christopher
              Message 6 of 8 , Sep 3, 2007
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                --- In SB-r-us@yahoogroups.com, SArjuna@... wrote:

                > I HAVE read Alexander's book,

                > The big question here, to me, is just how much more wood wewill have to
                > burn to heat an east-facing house vs. a south-facingone.


                > And the other big question is how bad is it to dig into a hill


                I remember years ago, the Skillful Meany (aka John Swearingen
                www.skillful-means.com)
                saying that he thought that the best thing to do with Christopher
                Alexander's book (Pattern Language) would be to blow it up with a stick of
                dynamite and then take the little pieces that stick to you afterwards, and
                burn them. Such talk from a Buddhist lay preacher. Eh ?

                While I wouldn't go so far as the Skillful Meany, I do agree with the
                basic sentiment... that it is just a book (albeit better than most) with a
                particular point of view as opposed to being a bible or book of laws.

                WRT the BIG question...

                A house in the Great Lakes region that is oriented properly to take
                advantage of direct-gain passive solar can easily have 50-75% of its
                heating load supplied by passive solar and occupancy gains. Since useful
                gains are obtained between the hours of 10am to 2pm in winter, orienting
                the house due east is going to negate the possibility of gains after 12
                noon... hence the 50% figure mentioned in my previous post to this thread.

                50% less solar = 50% more wood

                WRT the other Big Question re: diggin into a hill. How bad is it ?
                The badness of the actual digging would depend upon the hill.

                If it's a hill that's solid rock like what one would find in my
                neighbourhood, then it would mean
                (1) drilling holes into the rock and then
                (2) placing explosives into the drilled holes to blast the rock apart
                and then
                (3) having humongous excavators ($300-500 per hour)remove the blast
                rock

                and/or
                (4) having a humongous excavator with jack-hammer attachment break up
                the rock

                ... a process which could easily eat up $30k-60k for the average-sized
                house foundation excavation .

                If the hill is just soil, then the excavation could easily be done in half
                a day or so with the excavator mentioned above (ie easy).

                Quite frankly (and judy too) I'd say that it's generally
                cheaper/easier/friendlier to make a hill (ie berms and berming) around a
                house than it is to alter a hill so that it will accept a house foundation.


                --
                === * ===
                Rob Tom
                Kanata, Ontario, Canada
                < A r c h i L o g i c at C h a f f Y a h o o dot C a >
                (winnow the chaff from my edress in your reply)
              • David Neeley
                The moderator of the LittleHouses group on Yahoo, Laren Corie, designs and superintends building of houses in Michigan s Upper Peninsula that are 100% solar.
                Message 7 of 8 , Sep 5, 2007
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                  The moderator of the LittleHouses group on Yahoo, Laren Corie, designs
                  and superintends building of houses in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that
                  are 100% solar. As I understand it, that is the most unforgiving
                  climate in the Lower 48.

                  In other words, you could be giving up far more than 50%.

                  Few in the strawbale community seem oriented toward gaining 100% solar heating.

                  Laren, by the way, is *not* a fan of strawbale because he claims it
                  takes far too much available floorspace for the gains the walls
                  provide. That said, many of his designs are extremely clever and seem
                  to work quite well from an energy standpoint. Many of his techniques
                  could easily be adapted to strawbale designs.

                  One of the things he is extremely fond of in those Northern climates
                  especially is a sunspace, a glazed area essentially on the South side
                  of the house that buffers the outside temperatures and which supplies
                  warm air through windows, doors, or vents into the house proper. Even
                  on quite cold days, that space can be an inviting and comfortable
                  "outdoor" space.

                  This is not something I have seen discussed on this list--yet we know
                  that in cold climates especially it is a very good idea to have an
                  "air lock" between inside and outside, shielding much of the cold
                  winds from the interior.

                  Laren is also fond of using the glass units from sliding glass doors,
                  usually recycled, for large glass panels for these sunspaces. They
                  could also be made removable, perhaps with screen panels for warm
                  weather to replace them to keep a pleasant space apart from the
                  "creepy crawlies" during warmer weather.

                  http://www.larencorie.com

                  I'm sending Laren a copy of this so if you contact him he won't
                  necessarily be surprised.

                  If he wishes to respond to the list without joining it, he can send a
                  message to me and I will post it. However, his "LittleHouses" group is
                  one you may also find extremely useful.

                  David



                  On 9/3/07, Rob Tom <archilogic@...> wrote:

                  >
                  > WRT the BIG question...
                  >
                  > A house in the Great Lakes region that is oriented properly to take
                  > advantage of direct-gain passive solar can easily have 50-75% of its
                  > heating load supplied by passive solar and occupancy gains. Since useful
                  > gains are obtained between the hours of 10am to 2pm in winter, orienting
                  > the house due east is going to negate the possibility of gains after 12
                  > noon... hence the 50% figure mentioned in my previous post to this thread.
                  >
                  > 50% less solar = 50% more wood
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