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Ancient Solar Architecture Essay

1785 words - 8 pages

Ancient Solar Architecture

Passive solar design and architecture may seem like a distant dream in our fast paced modern world, but in reality it’s more of a modern revival of a style of energy efficient building that has been around for millennia. What once seemed to be common sense ideas for designing a house that could both keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter has somehow been forgotten since we started to overuse the planet’s resources on our own comforts. When heating a house took lots of effort it was the wise choice to design a building that could use the energy provided by the sun in the most advantageous ways. Unfortunately, in my opinion, since all we have to ...view middle of the document...

Again, this is not a new idea. In 1 B.C., Vitruvius, the chief architect of the Roman Empire said, "We must begin by taking note of the climate in which buildings are to be built if our designs for them are to be correct ". One type building seems appropriate for Egypt, another for Spain, one still different for Rome, and so on with lands and countries of varying characteristics." Some civilizations even used solar architecture for purposes other than for heat. The Egyptian pyramids were able to oriented to track the position of the sun. There were many temples that had shafts that could be opened on certain days like the solstice to allow light beams down to an altar . This is very impressive considering that the exact angles of the sun’s rays had to be calculated and then the shafts had to be accurately constructed in order to perform as designed. This principle also demonstrates how solar architecture doesn’t have to be entirely for heating and cooling. The design of solar homes can be very pleasing to the occupants. They are often more open and well lighted, and they give the feel of being more connected to nature since the house actually changes as the outside world changes.

One of the civilizations that we know the most about was Greece. They began to use passive solar design when they began having fuel crises due to a lack of fuel wood. One of the most important features of passive solar design is the orientation of the house. The Greeks had houses that oriented themselves north and south. An open courtyard faced South and there were usually large windows on the south side of the home to let in the maximum amount of light in the winter, but also provide shade in the summer months when the sun was directly overhead. Not only were these ideas used in single homes, but even in large cities. The cities of Olynthus, Priene, and Herculaneum all had rows of houses aligned north to south. The streets were either east and west or north and south, so that the entire city was divided up into squares. Each section of houses were built far enough apart to allow all buildings to have the winter sun hit their south facing windows for enough time to provide some heat for the house . In Rome, there were even laws passed that made it illegal to build your house in a spot that would block your neighbors sunlight . Another important concept of ancient solar architecture is the use of the space in the actual house. The Romans had a type of house with a colonnade to provide shade or sunlight for the living spaces. The servant’s quarters were on the north and south ends to create another barrier to the outside walls in the winter . Nowadays, we don’t make the servants sleep in the cold rooms, but the concept of creating buffers to outside walls facing north and south is still an important principle.

The materials used for building were also important to the ancient civilizations. Often the floors were made of dark stone and the walls...

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