Asee peer logo

A Model Passive Solar Home Student Design Project

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Energy Conversion and Conservation Division Technical Session 2: Solar Track

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Matt Aldeman Illinois State University

visit author page

Matthew Aldeman is an Assistant Professor of Technology at Illinois State University, where he teaches in the Renewable Energy and Engineering Technology programs. Matt joined the Technology department faculty after working at the Illinois State University Center for Renewable Energy for over five years. Previously, he worked at General Electric as a wind site manager at the Grand Ridge and Rail Splitter wind projects. Matt’s experience also includes service in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear propulsion officer and leader of the Reactor Electrical division on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. Matt is an honors graduate of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School and holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University, a Master of Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

visit author page


Jin Ho Jo Illinois State University

visit author page

Dr. Jin Ho Jo is an Associate Professor of Technology at Illinois State University, teaching in the Renewable Energy program. Dr. Jo is the program coordinator and also leads the Sustainable Energy Research Group at ISU. Dr. Jo is an honors graduate of Purdue University where he earned a B.S. in Building Construction Management. He earned his M.S. in Urban Planning from Columbia University where he investigated critical environmental justice issues in New York City. His 2010 Ph.D. from Arizona State University was the nation’s first in sustainability. His research, which has been widely published, focuses on the use of renewable energy systems and sustainable building strategies to reduce negative impacts of urbanization.

visit author page

Download Paper |


In a course focused on renewable energy technologies (especially focusing on solar energy and wind energy), a student project assignment has been developed wherein students design, build, and test a model passive solar home. Following an in-class lesson on passive solar design strategies, students choose a location on Earth where their model home will be “located.” Next, the students must design their passive solar home so that it incorporates good passive solar design principles and includes, at minimum: 1) roof overhangs that are long enough to shade more than 2/3 of the home’s south-facing windows at solar noon on the summer solstice, but short enough that they shade no more than 1/3 of the home’s south-facing windows at solar noon on the winter solstice, and 2) at least one other specific feature that maximizes the solar gain in the winter and/or minimizes the solar gain in the summer. Students build their model passive solar homes out of a material of their choosing. Foam board, poster board, cardboard, and plywood are common choices. The model home must be to scale, and the scale of the model home must be specified. On the due date, students bring their model homes to the lab and test the shading performance of their roof overhangs. Students give a brief explanation of their home’s design and features, and then they adjust a heliodon – specifically built for this purpose – to the sun’s altitude angle for their home’s location at the summer solstice and then at the winter solstice. The instructor observes the shading performance of the home’s roof overhangs and determines whether the design criteria have been met. In addition to constructing the home, the students write a two page single-spaced paper explaining the design and features of the home. The assessment of the project is based on 1) whether the home meets the design criteria, 2) professionalism of the model home, and 3) clarity of the written description. The project ties together several important concepts in this course, and provides students with an opportunity to creatively apply what they have learned. Student feedback on the project has been overwhelmingly positive.

Aldeman, M., & Jo, J. H. (2021, July), A Model Passive Solar Home Student Design Project Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36594

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015