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More architects designing homes with sun in mind

Tips on laying out rooms for maximum livability

Passive solar design is nothing new -- vernacular builders have known its principles for millennia. From the Middle East to China, both rich and poor alike have traditionally used the sun's free energy for comfort. Western architects, on the other hand, often seem to have considered themselves above designing with the sun in mind. American colonial houses, with their foursquare symmetrical facades, already hint at the New World's general unconcern for solar orientation. Perhaps this is because many of our forebears from England, Holland and other sun-challenged Northern European countries seldom found sunlight worth bothering about. Ironically, it was modernist architects -- who claimed to put rational design above all else -- who set a low point in concern for solar orientation. Aside from Frank Lloyd Wright and a handful of others who were uncommonly attuned to nature, modernist architects seemed barely to acknowledge that the sun existed except as a means of casting dra...