Solar Architecture

Architecture nowadays has taken a sustainable trend, reflected in solar design. Through more recent technological advancements, the connection between architecture and energy is made between passive measures and performance. Solar innovation is altering cities and architecture worldwide as one method to start tackling the global climate catastrophe and greenhouse gas emissions.

Architects have been focusing on lowering energy loads for buildings’ lighting, ventilation, heating, and cooling for a long time. With the advent of operational and structural embodied energy, solar design has expanded to include concepts of light and passive techniques. Energy-efficient buildings need more energy to construct than they do to operate. Thus it is increasingly difficult to strike the right balance when developing features that reduce this energy use. The emphasis on solar energy and sustainable practices has expanded to include embodied carbon, and architects and designers worldwide have made initiatives to reduce the amount of energy required by new buildings.

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Solar Analysis_©Pinterest

An approach to design known as solar architecture strongly emphasises utilising solar energy to produce energy-efficient structures. Architects may actively combat climate catastrophe by implementing these green design principles. Additionally, the ability of solar panels to reduce monthly electricity expenses does not harm. This solar architecture can be applied to residences, workplaces, and more.

Solar Architecture In History

1933 – 1950

Architects and engineers experimented with solar home heating from World War II until the late 1950s, and solar homes were constructed worldwide. Before photovoltaics, a technology that converts sunlight into power, it became practical. Before a new wave of interest in designing for the sun was sparked by counter-cultural movements in the 1960s and 1970s, solar dwellings were tested.

Three key design components were engaged in the “solar housing principle.” First, the solar residences had a long, thin layout that allowed most of the living spaces to face south, maximising solar exposure. The southern frontage was primarily made of glass to let the sun’s rays heat and illuminate internal areas efficiently. Third, the architects thoughtfully chose the roof overhang to block the midday summer light at its height, preventing interior rooms from overheating while allowing the most radiance and energy from the lower winter sun to enter the home. Since they didn’t require additional mechanical procedures once they were included in construction, these design principles are frequently referred to as “passive” solar design.

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Endesa Pavilion – Example of how architecture and solar co-exist _©Archdaily


Beginning in very early times, people used solar energy in their houses. Around the fifth century BC, Greece was where the concept of passive solar architectural design first emerged. The Greeks had been using charcoal as their primary fuel source until that point, but because there was a severe lack of wood available for burning, they were compelled to develop a new method of generating heat for their homes. The Greeks radically altered the layout of their towns out of need. However, if literature is the topic, Socrates House might be considered the pioneering example of solar architecture (also known as Megaron House). The first condensed passive solar architecture scheme was introduced.

Sokrates House (The Megaron House)

This one is one of the earliest passive solar plans recorded in the literature. In its design, it embodies the majority of passive solar principles. It has substantial stone walls to keep chilly winter winds out of the living areas and away from the northern part of the house. The southernmost province of the home is where the patio is located. It helps warm the indoor environment during the colder months by allowing oblique winter solar radiation to enter the structure. It also prevents the living space from growing hot in the summer by blocking the high-inclined summer radiation from the sun. The storage room, which serves as the house’s service space, is located on the northern side of the building and shields the living area from the outside cold.

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Drawings of Sokrates Houseshowing plan and the section on top, view on bottom_©Researchgate
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Sokrates House_©Khan Academy

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

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Mesa verde Cliff_©National Park Service

Mesa Verde is most renowned for its numerous, well-preserved cliff dwellings, homes carved out of rock overhangs and tiny caves, and residences erected along canyon walls in Southwest Colorado. The largest cliff home of its kind in North America is the so-called Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. There, the sun played many roles in people’s life. One example is the massive overhanging cliff that protects the settlement from passive solar and other weather elements. For practical and religious reasons, they also constructed buildings in strategic locations to serve as solar indicators during specific times of the year, including the solstices.

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Plan showing the accessibility of the dwelling community_©Khan Academy

Current Trends 

Residential sector implementing solar resources_©Archdaily

Sustainable practices must be used in architecture projects, not only a trend. Our understanding of the significance of adequately handling natural resources and considering environmental considerations when constructing a project grows daily. Solar energy is one of the most frequently used active and passive design elements in homes. Among buyers of new construction homes, solar integration is becoming standard. To enhance the availability of photovoltaic integration in residential buildings, architects and designers must adjust adequately. However, with careful planning and execution, solar panels can be more effectively incorporated during the design and construction phases.


Since human people have needed shelter, there has been a need for comfortable living spaces, and the sun is up in the sky. This has led to the use of solar architecture throughout the history of the building. Due to technological advancements, building designs now include new components like solar collectors and photovoltaics (PVs). Most of this occurred following the 1970s energy crisis. The crisis made it evident that only so many fossil fuels are available and that they affect the environment. To avoid harming the environment and finding additional energy sources that are not limited, people searched for them.

References :

  1. Eric Baldwin. “Solar Design: How Architecture and Energy Come Together” 20 Apr 2021. Arch Daily. Accessed 13 Nov 2022. <>  ISSN 0719-8884
  2. Yale University. “Solar architecture and Solar design 1930-1950’s”, Energy History, Available at:  [ Accessed: 13 November 2022]

Varsha Mini Veronica, an architect and urban enthusiast, driven by desire to envision modes of sustainability through design as a tool highlighting architectural writing as the medium to critique, create a demand for better architecture for society. Her strengths include her as a vertical thinker, as she believes in developing platforms that are not just human- centric but to address the livability of the environment.

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