How I Transformed My Home Into an Eco Friendly Place

How Engineers Ensure Adequate Solar Cooling and Heating

Different civil engineering approaches can be adopted in the quest to cool or heat a building using solar energy. This article discusses some of the approaches that can be helpful as your structure is constructed.


Shades prevent the building from absorbing high amounts of solar heat. Numerous techniques can be used to achieve this effect. For example, the structure of the building can be enclosed within a shading facade that protects the inner space from the intense heat of the sun. Similarly, porch roofs, landscaping and awnings can also shield the living space from excessive exposure to the heat from the sun. Engineers can also orient the building in a way that takes advantage of the area's topography in order to avoid maximum exposure to the sun.

Thermal Mass

Another principle that civil engineers can use to reduce the cost of heating or cooling a home is by making use of thermal mass to absorb the heat during hot weather and release that stored heat as the temperature drops later in the day or night. Concrete floors and log walls are examples of materials that can be used to regulate the heat from the sun within a building. The thermal mass will only be effective if adequate thought is devoted to determining its placement within or outside the building.


Numerous coatings are also available to control how much radiation is absorbed by a building. For example, the roof can be finished with a low-emissivity coating to protect the interior of the building from the heat produced by the sun. Reflective coatings can also be used to bounce radiation back into the atmosphere. Special care has to be taken when selecting coatings so that the most suitable one will be used to address the specific solar radiation challenges in the area.


Heat can also be prevented from moving from a hot surface (a metallic roof, for example) to a cooler one (the attic, for example) by the use of insulation. One of the latest trends in insulation is the installation of a planted roof. The plants and the planting medium (soil) act as a sponge to absorb any heat before it can reach the structures beneath the roof. Foam and other insulating materials can also be placed in walls, attics and floors to keep heat in or out.

Ask professionals to design the best mix of solar cooling and heating technologies when planning your building. Only then will you avoid incurring high energy costs to heat or cool that structure once it is completed.