Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (2024)

When designingand building anew house, itis important to understand how the location and orientation of your homewillaffect yourhome'senergyprofile. Housesoriented longitudinallyrequire less energy forbothheating and cooling, resulting in lower utility bills and increased comfort.

How the Sun Affects Building Design

The Earthis positioned on an axis that causes the Sun's position in the sky to change with the seasons.This is apparentin the summer when the Sun is further northin the skythan it is in the winter, when the Sun tends to be lower in the southern sky.This relative position change of the Sun is a majorheating and cooling factor that must be considered to maximizeor minimizea building’spassivesolargainsindifferent seasons.Houses oriented towards thesun can save between 10-40% on home heating.1

Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (1)


Typical Design Practices

Orient your homelongitudinally.

This means that the length of your home should be oriented east-west, and the smaller width of the home should benorth-south.This will maximize your solar gains from the southduring colder months, and minimize heat losses due to wind on the eastern and western sides.

Find the true South.

Notice that thesolar north-southisdifferentfrom magnetic north-south.Theshort axis of yourhome should orient towardsolar north-south. Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (2)

Orient your floor plantowards the Sun.

By designing your home with frequently used rooms, such as the kitchen and living room,on thesouthern side you may appreciate the sunrays in the winter, and will also be relieved from the sun on warm summer days.Patios and decks can also be built with this in mind by placing them on the southern side so they receive more direct sunlight, giving you more time to use them. Areas that are less frequently used, such asthelaundry room andgarage, should be situated on the northern side of the house, as they will act as a buffer againstcold winter winds and will not require thenatural lightingbenefits that you may want in your living spaces. Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (3)

Plant treesfor shading.

Trees areimportanttoprovideshade in the warm summer months, but can also starve the house of natural light.Deciduous treesshould beplantedon theeast andsouth sidesof your home. Their canopycanprovidesolar shadingin summer monthswhileinwintermonths,they lose theirleavestoallownaturallightandsolar heatingof the house. Evergreensshould be plantedon the northand westsidesof the housetoprovide shade in the hot summerandserve as a wind break in the cold winter. Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (4)

Install windows on your south-facing wall.

These windows will serve as a heat source in thewinter months. You can learn more about this technique on thepassive solarpage. Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (5)

Of course, all of these strategies may not alwaysbe possible. There are other aspects of a building's orientation such as street appeal, scenic views,anddrainage considerationsthat may factor in when considering your home's orientation.Straying from the strategies outlined above can have a minimal energy impact if you stay within 30 degrees of east-west. It is recommended that you contact abuilding inspectorto maximize these benefits based on yourlocation.


  1. "Building Orientation for Optimum Energy" by National Association of Certified Home Inspectors- An articlediscussingorientation of a home in great detail.
  2. InspectorSeek- Helps you find InterNACHI certified inspectors in your area.
  3. Wind Rose Diagram - Avaluable tool to determine the orientation of your building​in order to utilize the natural wind cycles. ​
  4. Building Information Modeling, Massing Tool - Avaluable tool in the pre-conceptualization stages of building for determining the best shape and size of your home based on the natural conditions outside. These tools generally cost money, but you may contact a local architect if you would like to model your home using their software. ​
  5. eQuest-Link to an exampleenergy simulationtoolprovided by Department of Energy
Building Location and Orientation | Green Home Technology Center (2024)
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