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An Introduction to Passive Solar Buildings

J. Paul Guyer, P.E., R.A., Fellow ASCE, Fellow AEI

Course Outline

I.  Systems

      A.  Direct gain heating
      B.  Daylighting
      C.  Radiant panels
      D.  Thermosiphoning air panels
      E.  Thermal storage walls
                  1.  Trombe walls
                  2.  Concrete block walls
                  3.  Water walls
      F.  Sunspaces
      G.  Incremental cooling load

II.  Climatic considerations
      A.  Characteristic weather parameters
      B.  Climate and conservation measures
      C.  Solar availability

III.  Guidelines for schematic design

      A.  Building shape and orientation
      B.  East, west and north windows
      C.  Passive heating system characteristics
      D.  Sizing overhangs
      E.  Insulation levels
      F.  Infiltration
      G.  Solar collection area
      H.  Thermal storage mass

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

Architectural, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers; federal, state and local public works and infrastructure officials; and managers with private companies responsible for design, construction, operation and maintenance of buildings and related infrastructure.

Benefit for Attendee

Participants will receive the framework they need to take a leadership position in implementation of passive solar building design in their companies, firms and agencies.  They will learn the fundamentals that will allow them to move forward design cost-effective and efficient passive solar buildings.

Course Introduction

1.  Your will learn about basic passive solar heating systems for buildings including direct gain heating, daylighting, radiant panels, thermosiphoning air panels, thermal storage walls, sunspaces, and incremental cooling load. 

2.  This seminar will cover climatic considerations including characteristic weather parameters, climate-driven conservation measures, and solar availability.

3.  Guidelines for schematic design of passive solar building heating systems will be discussed including building shape and orientation, non-south windows, passive heating system characteristics, sizing overhangs, insulation levels, infiltration, solar collection areas, and thermal storage mass.

About Course Author

Paul Guyer is a registered mechanical engineer, civil engineer, fire protection engineer and architect with over 35 years experience in the design of buildings and related infrastructure.  For an additional 9 years he was a senior-level advisor to the California Legislature on infrastructure and capital outlay issues.  He has designed and supervised the design of hundreds of construction projects requiring the preparation of detailed working drawings and specifications for federal, state and local public agencies and private companies.  He is a graduate of Stanford University and has held numerous national, state and local positions with the American Society of Civil Engineers and National Society of Professional Engineers.

Course Content

The course content is contained in the following PDF file:

An Introduction to Passive Solar Buildings

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you still experience any difficulty in downloading or opening this file, you may need to close some applications or reboot your computer to free up some memory.

Course Summary

Passive solar energy is one of the most efficient forms of energy in the world.  Not only does it reduce the cost of energy for your company, agency or clients, it reduces the demand on limited global energy supplies and avoids carbon emissions and other global environmental impacts associated with energy production and utilization.  Participants will learn about the basic systems and building features that can be used to passively heat buildings using solar energy.  They will learn how to evaluate climate and solar availability to determine feasibility of cost-effective passive solar systems at specific project sites.  And they will gain knowledge of guidelines to use in preparing feasibility studies for passive solar projects.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.