Draft draft draft reasons for the seasons and designing solar homes hal Aronson 2008

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  • Reasons for the seasons curriculum which is about observing seasonal changes in sun angles, length of day, room temp.s in order to understand seasons.
  • Solar home design: Principles of Solar Home Design; build a solar heated/cooled home; add solar electricity to the solar home
  • Link to Science, Math, and Social Science Content Standards

Activities for Learning Seasons in preparation for Solar Home Design

  • Orientation: Note the compass movement of the sun from morning to evening.
  • Experiment with focused light beam and graph paper
  • Build a Solar Angle Finder
  • Take regular measurements of the Solar angle at solar noon from September to December and graph data.
  • Graph length of day from September to December.
  • Take energy readings using an ammeter and solar cell
  • Study your local climate: heating days, cooling days, prevailing winds
  • Notebook moment

Activities for Designing Solar Homes

  • Investigate local climate (San Diego vs. Truckee)
  • Review Solar Design Principles
  • Learn how to measure and scale
  • Evaluate your classroom in terms of its energy performance, solar design success or failure
  • Architectural block exercise
  • Sketch Designs
  • Build model homes
  • Write up of home in terms of form and function: can be done with blocks
  • Present and critique homes (includes write up of form and function
  • Walk through neighborhood and evaluate homes in terms of solar performance.
  • Notebook moment

Content Standards, Review 3rd Grade

  • Earth Sciences
  • 4. Objects in the sky move in regular and predictable patterns. As a basis for under-standing this concept: e. Students know the position of the Sun in the sky changes during the course of the day and from season to season.

California Science Standards: Grade 6 anticipate

  • Heat (Thermal Energy) (Physical Science)
  • 3. Heat moves in a predictable flow from warmer objects to cooler objects until all the objects are at the same temperature. As a basis for understanding this concept:
  • a. Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by heat flow or by waves, including water, light and sound waves, or by moving objects.
  • c. Students know heat flows in solids by conduction (which involves no flow of matter) and in fluids by conduction and by convection (which involves flow of matter).
  • d. Students know heat energy is also transferred between objects by radiation (radiation can travel through space).

Science Standards: Grade 6 (cont.)

  • Energy in the Earth System
  • 4. Many phenomena on Earth’s surface are affected by the transfer of energy through radiation and convection currents. As a basis for understanding this concept:
  • a. Students know the sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on Earth’s surface; it powers winds, ocean currents, and the water cycle.
  • b. Students know solar energy reaches Earth through radiation, mostly in the form of visible light.

Science Standards: Grade 6 (cont.)

  • Resources
  • 6. Sources of energy and materials differ in amounts, distribution, usefulness, and the time required for their formation. As a basis for understanding this concept:
  • a. Students know the utility of energy sources is determined by factors that are involved in converting these sources to useful forms and the consequences of the conversion process.
  • b. Students know different natural energy and material resources, including air, soil, rocks, minerals, petroleum, fresh water, wildlife, and forests, and know how to classify them as renewable or nonrenewable.

Earth Science Standards: High School

  • Energy in the Earth System
  • 4. Energy enters the Earth system primarily as solar radiation and eventually escapes as heat. As a basis for understanding this concept:
  • a. Students know the relative amount of incoming solar energy compared with Earth’s internal energy and the energy used by society.
  • b. Students know the fate of incoming solar radiation in terms of reflection, absorption, and photosynthesis.
  • c. Students know the different atmospheric gases that absorb the Earth’s thermal radiation and the mechanism and significance of the greenhouse effect.
  • d.* Students know the differing greenhouse conditions on Earth, Mars, and Venus; the origins of those conditions; and the climatic consequences of each.

Demonstration: Orientation

  • Underwear man
  • Ascertain principles of solar home Design based on Underwear man story
  • Hold up a model home and demonstrate how it could or could not be a “solar home”
  • note: be clear what a solar home is

Demonstration #2: Angle and Energy

  • With volunteer, demonstrate the effect of angle with a focused beam flashlight or spotlight. Ideally focus it on a piece of graph paper.
  • Take it outside with a solar cell and a multimeter set on 10 amps. Experiment with Angle and amps produced. Record your findings.
  • Note: relationship between light intensity and amps produced. Recall experiment with light funnel.
  • Notebook moment


  • The Demonstration of light beam dispersed and the exploration of the quantity of electricity produced affected by the angle of the solar cell provide the reason we need to record sun angles.

Reasons for the Seasons Why Cold in Winter; Hot in Summer

Step 1: Observations: Gathered Systematically: Same time of Day on Weekly or Daily Basis (Data tables in your packet)

  • Length of Day: September 22  December 22
  • Solar Angle: Sept. 22  Dec 22
  • Optional: Comparative Room Temperatures

Solar Shadow Instrument: Shadow at December 3, 12:25 pm

Using Solar Shadow to Get Solar Angle

  • Solar Shadow
  • Third Side Of Triangle: Shows Angle Of Sun

Content Standards: 5th Grade

  • 2.0 Students identify, describe, and classify the properties of, and the relationships between, plane and solid geometric figures:
  • Measure, identify, and draw angles, perpendicular and parallel lines, rectangles, and triangles by using appropriate tools (e.g., straightedge, ruler, compass, protractor, drawing software).

Step 2: Graph Observations

  • Solar Angle
  • Length of Day
  • Optional: Room Temperatures

Content Standards: Math 4th Grade

  • 2.0 Students use two-dimensional coordinate grids to represent points and graph lines and simple figures:

Solar Angle: Graphing From Fall to Winter

  • Solar Angle
  • Date Measurement Taken

Graphing Length of Day

  • Hours and Minutes
  • Date

Step 3: Interpret Observations

  • The Reason for the Seasons: the reason it gets colder as we move from fall to winter is that the sun is at a shallower angle so less energy hits a given area of Berkeley and the days are shorter, so the solar energy hits Berkeley for less time each day.
  • Cause of this: Tilt of Earth on its axis

Project Break

  • Build a Sun Angle Tool
  • Use the Sun Angle Tool to determine the sun angle
  • Practice graphing a sun angle


Note: if this is Redundant from Last year….then DVD

  • After DVD we will as a group discern the principles of solar home design.

Principles of Solar Home Design

  • Winter: Sun In: Orientation and Angle.
  • Summer: Keep Sun out: Use of Eaves, shade zones, and color.
  • Storage: Thermal Mass: Store warmth in the winter; store “coolth” in summer; keeps temperature even
  • Weatherization: Keep warmth in in the winter and out in the summer.
  • Air Circulation: For Cooling and Warming

#1: Let Sun In: Orientation

#1: Let Sun In: Direct Gain: Glass: the magic solar heating technology 7:100 South Glass to Floor Area without Thermal Mass Up to 12:100 with Thermal Mass (Depending on Weatherization)

#1: Let Sun In: South Facing Windows

#1: Let Winter Sun In: Clerestory Windows

#2. Summer: Keep Sun Out

#2: Strategic Use of Eaves: Using Seasonal angles to our advantage “Designing with Nature”. Two foot eaves work well.

#2: Summer Sun Out Key: Vertical Glass, not skylights

  • Summer sun angle

#2: Eaves to Keep Summer Sun Out: Let Winter Sun In

  • Summer Sun Angle
  • Winter Sun Angle

Porches, shade zones, strategically planted trees

  • Angles slats let winter sun in
  • Angled Slats in
  • Shade Structure

Landscaping: Note Tree

#3: Storage: Store Energy Gained Thermal Mass: (Conduction and Convection)

Content Standards

  • Earth Sciences 4th GRADE
  • 4. The properties of rocks and minerals reflect the processes that formed them.

Direct Gain with Thermal Mass Aim for 3 times the south facing glass (or more)

  • Thermal Mass
  • Thermal Mass

Thermal Mass: Water Tubes

Trombe Wall: Blocks Glare, Thermal Storage, Heat Control

Trombe Wall with Windows

#4: Keep Sun’s Energy In: Weatherization:

Reduce Heat loss, Reduce Amount of solar gain and thermal mass required (source: sunlight homes)

Conventional insulation

Insulation: Straw Bale: waste material: R35 (More insulation less heating and cooling needed)

Earth Plaster over Straw Bale

Insulation: Straw Bale: Holds in heat in winter and keeps it out in Summer. (Combined with thermal mass and shading, can eliminate need for air conditioning)

Insulation: SIPs: Structural Insulated Panels

  • OSB
  • Board
  • Foam Insulation

Content Standards: 4th Grade Math

  • Fourth Grade MathAlgegra: 1.0 Students use and interpret variables, mathematical symbols, and properties to write and simplify expressions and sentences: 1.1 Use letters, boxes, or other symbols to stand for any number in simple expressions or equations (e.g., demonstrate an understanding and the use of the concept of a variable).
  • Geometry: 1.0 Students understand perimeter and area: 1.1 Measure the area of rectangular shapes by using appropriate units, such as square centimeter (cm2), square meter (m 2), square kilometer (km 2), square inch (in 2), square yard (yd2), or square mile (mi 2). 1.2 Recognize that rectangles that have the same area can have different perimeters. 1.3 Understand that rectangles that have the same perimeter can have different areas. 1.4 Understand and use formulas to solve problems involving perimeters and areas of rectangles and squares. Use those formulas to find the areas of more complex figures by dividing the figures into basic shapes.

Project Pause: Evaluate the Classroom

  • Check Orientation of the Building
  • Measure floor space of building and calculate the amount of needed south facing glass.
  • Does the room measure up? How will it perform
  • Evaluate thermal mass. Does the room measure it up?
  • Notebook moment

Project Pause

  • Review Solar Home Design Principles
  • Design/Build Solar Homes with GeoBlocks
  • Write up of form and function of your solar block house: fenestration, orientation, thermal mass, overhangs, landscaping, etc.
  • Notebook moment

Content Standards 4th Grade

  • 1.0 Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose.
  • Note: so description of home’s solar design, the various features and their functions….meet a language arts standard as well as being rich in science and technology

Content Standards: Writing 5th Grade

  • 1.0 Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.

Content Standards 4th Grade

  • 2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics) Students deliver brief recitations and oral presentations about familiar experiences or interests that are organized around a coherent thesis statement.
  • Note: so verbal description of home’s solar design, the various features and their functions….meet a language arts standard as well as being rich in science and technology

Content Standards: Indigenous Economy/Architecture: 5th Grade

          • 5.1 Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.
          • 1. Describe how geography and climate influenced the way various nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including locations of villages, the distinct structures that they built, and how they obtained food, clothing, tools, and utensils.

Content Standards: Indigenous Economy/Architecture: 4th G

          • 4.2 Students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods.
          • 1. Discuss the major nations of California Indians, including their geographic distribution, economic activities, legends, and religious beliefs; and describe how they depended on, adapted to, and modified the physical environment by cultivation of land and use of sea resources.

Indigenous “Solar” Architecture

  • Incorporates important green energy concepts including orientation, shading, thermal mass
  • Utilizes local, usually on site building opportunities and materials
  • Opportunity to show how other cultures solved their energy challenges using locally available materials and cultural developed technologies

Anasazi Pithouse 500 CE,

  • Green Energy and Materials: geothermal temperature control using constant temp of earth (dug in); insulation and thermal mass from the floor/wall/roof construction; good use of local materials with minimal consumption of wood.

Navaho: Hogan: Sacred Home

  • Spiritual"The circular hogan with its east-facing door and its earthen floor is constructed to encourage harmony, just as the spiritual beings first instructed," Cambridge explained.
  • [Note use of local materials, east-facing door brings in morning light/warmth, solar mass, ?insulation. Well sealed.

Navajo (Dine) Hogan

  • East Facing for morning solar gain
  • Thermal mass and possibly insulation from the combination of earth, mud, clay, wood grasses
  • Protection from infiltration of cold from North
  • Use of Local Materials
  • “Affordable”

Taos Pueblo Copyright(C) 1999 David Slauson. This image is copyrighted. The copyright holder allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the photographer is credited.

Taos Pueblo (continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years [ck]) Built between 1000 and 1450: Thick Adobe Wall Construction Puebloan (aka Anasazi) Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri. May 2005

Pueblos as Green Buildings

  • Adobe provides thermal mass as well as local green building product with healthy breathable walls
  • Built with materials on site
  • Orientation: South-facing for passive solar gain [ck] if this is always the practice
  • Many adjacent units increases the energy efficiency—all have access to the south but the other directions are protected and “insulated.” ck

Mesa Verde Note Southern Orientation, Shading (overhang), thermal mass. (Wikipedia Commons)

Mesa Verde Stone covered with plaster Photo: http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/articles/mesaverde.htm

Examples of Modern Indigenous Inspired Design Architect: Craig Henritzy

Note: south facing glass and thermal mass and split level design , daylighting, adobe textures/style Photo courtesy of Craig Henritzy

Modern Adobe (http://www.oneearthdesign.com/passive_house_standard.html)

Modern Adobe (http://www.oneearthdesign.com/mangat1.html)

Modern Adobe (http://www.oneearthdesign.com/)

Compressed Earth Block (http://www.oneearthdesign.com/)

Compressed Earth Block (http://www.oneearthdesign.com/)

Sol y Sombra Mazria Architects: Santa Fe, NM

Project Pause

  • Review Solar Home Design Principles
  • Take a tour of the neighborhood to look at the homes, apartment buildings, and our commercial buidlings.
  • Have students comment on its success and/or failure as a solar designed building. How do they think it will perform.
  • Notebook moment

Active and Passive Solar Systems

University of Missouri-Rolla and Rolla Technical Institute (Designed and built by students)

Rather normal looking for a “solar home;” note water heater in addition to home heating.

Ancient Design: Note Solar Design Features; what might be missing?

Examples in the Classroom

Passive Solar Homes: Grade 4/5

Thinking about the Solar Performance

Discussing Strengths and Problems with Designs

Adding Landscaping and Solar Electricity

High School Designed for Imperial Valley

Takes into Account Local Climate, Culture, and Economic Constraints (ESL students)

Need to Explain How the Elements work together to provide comfortable interior climate (language arts)

High School Interns help Elementary School students Design Solar Homes

Solar Village


  • Standard Model or…
  • Start Building One to Suit Your Climate


Project Pause

  • Review Solar Home Design Principles
  • Design/Build Solar Homes with GeoBlocks

FloorPlan: Basic Proportions, orientation, flooring materials, useful for calculating needed southern glass, location of rooms

¼ Inch Scale: 1 square = 1 foot by 1 foot

  • 24 feet
  • 40 feet
  • 24 feet x 40 feet = 960 square feet

Southern Elevation: Useful for designing south facing glass layout. Note doors are also glass in this design.

  • 40 feet
  • 4 x 5 feet = 20 square feet

East Elevation: Useful for designing eaves and also studying depth of seasonal sun light penetration

Use East Elevation to Calculate Eaves and depth of solar penetration (Winter Sun at noon)

Use East Elevation to Calculate Summer Sun (at noon)

Models without cutouts Can’t test with light

Block Approach

Blocks to Model

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