Project Description

Welcome to Pangea Builders School.

Our intention of this course is to teach you all about how to keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer 
with little to no utility bills and little to no use of fossil fuels.

What will this course bring you?

  • Understand how to keep buildings comfortable with little to no fossil fuels utilizing solar and thermal dynamics, and how to maintain this system.
  • Know how to custom-design this system for different kinds of applications.
  • Know how, and possibly be able to build this system.


Keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer
with little to no utility bills / fossil fuels.
This increases both psychological and physiological comfort.

Both the International Building Code and the International Residential Code have requirements for maintaining a minimum temperature in buildings. They do not have requirements for a maximum temperature in buildings though there are ventilation system requirements and there are reasonable standards for comfort.

“All design projects should engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuel.”
The 2010 Imperative, Edward Mazria,AIA, Founder of Architecture 2030


Passive solar technologies absorb heat from the sun via thermal mass (water, rock, stone, mud, etc.), cause ventilation via cooling tubes and operable windows with little use of any electrical energy.

Every south-facing window creates a direct-gain system, while windows facing east, west, and north lose more heat than they gain in the winter. The greenhouse effect, acts as a one-way heat valve. It lets the short-wave solar energy enter but blocks the heat from escaping. The thermal mass inside the building then absorbs this heat, both to prevent daytime overheating and to store it for nighttime. The proper ratio of mass to south-facing glazing is important.

Since in direct gain the building is the collector, all contents, such as the drywall, furniture, and books, act as thermal mass. However, the contents are usually not sufficient to store an adequate amount of heat without additional thermal mass. When there is no concrete floor or when even more thermal mass is desired, it can be provided in the walls, water containers, floors, or phase-change materials.

Although solar heat can be supplied by convection to the rooms on the north side of a building, it is much better to supply solar radiation directly by means of south-facing clear-story windows. Besides bringing warming sunlight further into the building, clear-stories also provide excellent day- lighting, because light from above is best.

Most direct-gain systems consist of straight walls facing due south or as close to south as possible. Direct gain is the most efficient when energy collection and first costs are the main concerns.

There is absolutely no cutting back on comfort; 
instead the level of comfort is considerably increased.

A Passive House / Building is a building standard that is energy efficient, comfortable, affordableand ecological ALL at the same time.

Passive House / Building is not a brand name, but a construction concept that can be applied by anyone and that has stood the test of practice and literally thousands of years of time. These are modern, beautiful, high-value homes.

Passive Buildings allow for heating and cooling related energy savings of up to 90% compared with typical building stock and over 75% compared with average new builds. In terms of heating oil, Passive Houses use less than 1.5 litres per square meter of living space per year – far less than typical low- energy buildings. Similar energy savings have been demonstrated in warm climates where buildings require more energy for cooling than for heating (thermal mass).

Passive Houses are also praised for their high level of comfort. They use energy sources inside the building such as using the heat from an oven or solar heat entering the building – making heating a lot easier.

Appropriate windows with good insulation and a building shell consisting of good insulated exterior thermal mass walls, roof and floor slab keep the heat during winter in the house – and keep it out during summer.

Ventilation consistently supplies fresh air making for superior air quality without causing any unpleasant draughts. This is a guarantee for low Radon levels and improves health conditions.

Heating & Cooling Buildings 101

an overview of the system and how it works.

  • Comfort via Solar/Thermal Dynamics
  • Codes and Regulations relative to Comfort
  • Adaptive Comfort
  • Degree Days

Passive Solar

  • Passive Solar 101
  • Heat Flow
  • Radiant Energy
  • Passive Solar Energy Gain
  • Direct Solar Gain Systems
  • The Greenhouse Effect
  • Sunspaces / Greenhouses
  • Thermosiphon (Convective-Loop System)
  • Trombe Walls
  • Surface Color & Solar Gain
  • Drawing Sun Beams on Best Dates
  • Review: Passive Solar
  • What is a Passive Building?
  • The Principles of a Passive Building
  • History: ’PassiveHaus’ = ‘Passive House’ = passive building
  • Passive Solar quiz 1

Climate & Culture: Physics & Humanity

  • Climate & Culture: Physics & Humanity 101
  • Tropical Climate: Hot / Humid
  • Temperature Climate: Warm / Humid
  • Temperate / Upland Climate: Dry / Cool
  • Arid Climate: Dry Hot / Cold
  • Local Anthropologically and Culturally Aware Design
  • Plant Species and their Characteristics


  • Insulation 101
  • R-Value
  • U-Factor / U-Value
  • Deterioration
  • Air Leaks and Insulation
  • How Insulation Works
  • Total R-Values for New Conventional Houses
  • Typical R-values
  • Footing / Foundation / Slab Insulation
  • Frost Line
  • Frost heaving
  • Types of Insulation
  • Advantages of cellulose insulation

How to Install Insulation

  • How to Install Insulation 101
  • Thermal Wrap: Turbo Charge your Green Building
  • Batts
  • Rigid/Panels
  • Retrofit a building with Rigid Insulation panels

Thermal Mass

  • Thermal Mass 101
  • How thermal mass works
  • Using thermal mass effectively
  • Choose the right amount of thermal mass
  • Where to locate thermal mass
  • Where not to locate thermal mass
  • Typical applications
  • Heat Sink
  • Glass to Thermal Mass ratios for different climates
  • Air Volume to Thermal Mass Volume Ratio
  • Thermal mass properties
  • Multi-story buildings
  • Earth Sheltering
  • Thermal mass checklist


  • Cooling 101
  • Four Types of Passive Cooling Systems
  • Ventilation
  • Shading
  • Ecological Impact of Earthships

How to Install Thermal Mass

  • Rammed Earth in Tires
  • Slip Form: Stone Masonry & Concrete
  • Adobe Brick Walls
  • Water as Thermal Mass: Liquid Thermal Mass

Thermal Envelope

  • Thermal Envelope 101
  • Heat Loss
  • Heat Gain
  • Moisture Control
  • Vapor Barriers
  • Infiltration & Ventilation: Air Sealing
  • The Perfect Wall

Energy Efficient Windows

  • Energy Efficient Windows 101
  • Improving the energy efficiency of existing windows
  • Window Selection
  • Window Boxes
  • Window Installation
  • Thermographic Inspection