Passive Features: New Construction

Incorporating passive design features in to new construction costs little to nothing. The benefits are greatest when the entire design can be taken into consideration.


If you are looking to build an energy efficient home, the most important things to consider are location and orientation of the site, site layout, window design, insulation, thermal mass, shading, and ventilation. Each of these works together to make your whole house more comfortable and cost-efficient.


Site Orientation

  • If you are building a new addition, configure the space to minimize west-facing walls and windows. The long axis should be within 30 degrees of south. 

  • Focus on shading the east, west, and south facing walls of your home. 

  • The western exposure may have the best view, but it is also the most severe exposure for heat from sunlight. Carefully place and size windows, and orient the home so long walls face north and south.

  • Tip: You may have great views to the south and west, but large expanses of glass will gain heat in your home. Consider a patio cover.


Building Form

Compact floor plans keep exterior walls to a minimum, but for good cross ventilation and day lighting, L-shaped and courtyard homes that are essentially one room deep are best. Consider these floorplans below:





















Around the Home

  • Add trees to shade the building and outdoors.

  • Permeable pavement allows water to seep between the pavers and reduce runoff.

  • Direct roof and site water to “dry creek” landscape areas.

  • Consider removing hardscape that is not necessary. Concrete patios and walkways can become additional sources of unwanted heat, which increases your cooling load, and, as a result, your energy costs.    

Funded by the Local Government Strategic Plan Strategies Program

under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

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