Designing Buildings With Solar Energy in Mind

  • by Evelyn Long
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  • 2022-01-13 00:00:00
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  • International
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  • 3216

Solar energy is a valuable addition to any new building, and designing with this in mind can maximize value and return on investment. More and more new buildings are being designed to accommodate solar panels as sustainability initiatives take on greater importance around the world. 

Everyone from homeowners to corporate executives can benefit from the renewable energy that solar panels provide without compromising on architectural aesthetics or structural integrity. Keeping these key considerations in mind can help ensure that new building designs are optimized for solar energy potential.


Shading and Orientation

In order to maximize the energy production of solar panels, building designers need to keep tilt and shading in mind. Any parts of the panels that are shaded most of the day are going to diminish the return on investment. This should be considered early on in the design process.

The American Institute of Architects suggests solar panels have about 5 to 10 degrees of tilt on rooftops or 20 to 30 degrees of tilt on the ground. In addition to the angling of the solar panels themselves, the height of nearby buildings and the direction of the sun overhead also have an effect on the building design.

For example, some cities have regulations that prevent nearby buildings from obstructing the sunlight on solar panels of neighboring structures. If this is not the case, however, designers may need to get creative with the placement of their solar panels. Rather than putting the panels on the roof, they could go on the sides of the building in a direction that will maximize sunlight exposure.


Solar Infrastructure

After establishing how to optimize the orientation and integration of the solar panels, designers need to consider all of the solar infrastructure itself. Both designers and building owners should have a clear understanding of how solar panels work and what the various components of a solar energy system are. 

The wiring for every panel needs to be carefully planned out, ideally with the building laid out in a way to efficiently connect the panels themselves to the building’s power storage. For example, this might be a large battery cell for a homeowner’s solar array.

In addition to wiring, designers should also make a plan for solar panel maintenance. How will maintenance personnel reach the panels if needed? At what stage in the building process should the panels and equipment be installed? These are all important questions to ask during the design process.


Tax Incentive Options

While tax incentives may not directly affect the design of the building itself, they can be a great benefit for the project. Many countries have begun implementing helpful tax policies for buildings and homeowners who include solar energy in their designs. Architects and designers should check for these tax programs in their client’s area to make sure the design meets all the necessary standards.

Even if clients don’t specifically request solar energy ahead of time, they may be interested in adding it to the building if they learn about any applicable tax incentives. In fact, some areas may even require solar panels on certain kinds of buildings. California, for example, has a state-wide regulation for all homes built from 2020 onward to have solar panels installed.


Weather Analysis

Conducting a weather analysis of the surrounding area will help prepare the building’s solar energy system for any natural threats it might have to face. A common misconception about solar panels is that they can only be effective in areas with high-intensity sunlight all year round. While this is of course beneficial, solar panels can be used in virtually any area as long as weather conditions are accounted for.

Designers should assess weather patterns from recent years to get a thorough understanding of what conditions to expect. An area that is humid and rainy, for example, may need extra moisture resistance for solar energy equipment. Likewise, an area that gets snow part of the year will need a solar panel system with some kind of snow management function. 

Weather patterns can also influence where and how the panels themselves are integrated into the design. For example, maybe the side of the building is a better placement option in order to avoid snow and rain pileup.



Solar panels have gotten a reputation for poor architectural aesthetics over the years, but this does not have to be the case. In fact, architects and designers have found some inspiring ways to creatively use solar panels in cutting-edge designs. They can often be angled in creative ways or disguised with innovative design tactics.

There are many stunning buildings that use solar energy all over the world. Buildings like these go to show what can be accomplished when designers utilize the aesthetics of the panels themselves rather than adding them as an afterthought.


Tomorrow’s Renewable Buildings Are Built With Solar

Architects and designers can help make the world a more sustainable, healthy place by designing buildings with solar energy in mind. As solar cell technology continues to improve, solar energy is becoming a continually more desirable feature in new buildings. With a little creativity and a detailed approach, designers can create buildings that include renewable energy infrastructure while also stunning clients and communities.

 energy efficiency

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