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Solar Technology Applications in Architecture and Community Planning.

    Solar Panels are a clean, renewable source of electrical power that can save you money and help the environment

    Solar architecture controls the use of the sun to provide comfortable temperatures, lighting and air quality. The basic elements of solar architecture are building orientation, proportion, thermal mass and window placement. The solar architecture and design process tailors these elements to the local climate and environment.

    The oldest principle of solar architecture is building orientation. The entire building can be positioned and angled to be oriented towards or away from the sun, overshadowing from other structures or natural features can be avoided or used, and the building can be set into the ground using earth sheltering techniques.

    • As a rule of thumb, a solar building's axis should run lengthwise east to west and the structure should be twice as long as wide.

    • Windows facing the equator should be equal to 5-7% of the building's floor space. If heating is a concern, window area facing away from the equator should be minimized.

    • The thermal mass in the building should be sized to smooth out temperature swings.

    • Spaces can be designed to naturally circulate air. Cooling elements such as a solar chimney can be incorporated to help with ventillation.

    • Lighting quality and energy use are strongly influenced by window design. In cold climates insulated glazing with low-emissivity coatings can maximize solar gain and reduce heat losses by 30-50%. In hot climates low-emissivity coatings on the outside of window panes can be used to reduce and control solar gain.

    • The albedo of an object indicates the percentage of light it reflects. Asphalt has an albedo of around 10% while the average albedo of the Earth is 30%. Urban heat islands (UHI) are metropolitan areas with significantly higher temperatures than the surrounding environment. These higher temperatures are the result of urban materials such as concrete and asphalt which have lower albedos and higher heat capacities than the natural environment. A straightforward method of counteracting the UHI effect is to paint buildings and roads white and plant trees. A hypothetical "cool communities" program in Los Angeles, California called for the planting of ten million trees, the reroofing of almost 5 million homes and painting one-quarter of the roads. These measures are estimated to reduce urban temperatures by approximately 3C. The projected costs of such a program are approximately $1 billion. The annual savings from reduced air-conditioning costs are estimated at $170 million with an additional yearly health benefit of $360 million in smog-reduction savings.

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