Balancing Solar and Energy Conservation

From my earliest Lexington residential projects in 1976,
fully-developed passive solar building designs with open views into the surrounding environment have proven successful in realizing generously daylighted rooms which are naturally warm in winter and comfortably cool in summer. Building “homeostasis” was my early term for designing buildings which are not dependent on outside energy to maintain comfortable thermal and lighting conditions.

In 2010, the leading edge of energy conscious design requires tightly-sealed, highly-insulated buildings with well-developed intrinsic solar heating and natural cooling features (passive solar). Such high-performance buildings incorporate adequate thermal mass, natural ventilation, seasonally appropriate daylighting, and energy-efficient windows, electric lighting, and mechanical systems. The remaining (greatly reduced) energy needs of such a home can then be met by the market-ready renewable technologies of solar hot water and photovoltaic collectors. In our project designs, we position our clients’ to install these technologies as the economics of energy shift from burning polluting fossil fuels to harnessing clean, on-site, renewable energy resources. Increasingly popular energy performance goals such as Net Zero―and even Net Positive Energy Houses―are now technically and economically feasible as well as desirable. 

Green Architecture: reduce, reuse, adapt

While energy efficiency is the foundation of sustainable new building design, other ecological effects of buildings are also significant. The emergence of the concept of green architecture reflects a deepening understanding by designers seeking the most environmentally benign building patterns, materials, and practices.

Our firm encourages clients to embrace those principals of green architecture which they deem appropriate to their individual projects, including the pursuit of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Passive House , EarthCraft, EnergyStar, Green Globes, or any other credible environmental certification standard. Lee Merrill Architects values and utilizes the relevant and cost-effective practices well identified in the Green Building Rating System.

Revisioning and Remodeling Existing Buildings

As the historic preservation community correctly points out, rethinking and upgrading existing homes and buildings to today’s purposes and energy realities offers important opportunities. Our firm relishes the challenge of fully-optimizing our clients’ individual lifestyle preferences through remodeling projects. We seek those remodeling ideas which provide the desired outcome and benefits while respecting and valuing the existing architecture. Each building is assessed to determine which conservation improvements will best guide the client in reducing their dependence on purchased fossil fuel-based energy, and how to harness feasible renewable energy resources in the future.

Our Twelve Principles of
Ecological Building Design

Apply holistic thinking to programming, analysis, and creativity

Be efficient with resources: energy, water, materials, labor and money

Minimize transportation impacts in site planning and material selection

Maximize use of local, non-toxic, natural and recycled-content products

Integrate buildings with their site’s natural patterns and microclimate

Design building form to harness solar orientation’s seasonal benefits

Construct airtight buildings and provide for controlled healthful fresh air

Arrange windows and doors to accomplish cross ventilation and cooling

Provide interior daylighting with well-placed, high efficiency windows

Cost-effectively super insulate the building’s entire exterior envelope

Use energy efficient electrical lighting, mechanical and hot water systems

Plan for solar hot water, photovoltaic and/or geo-heat pump technologies