High-performing homes can take many forms, and at a passing glance it can be quite difficult to determine whether a given structure may be a paragon of energy efficiency and sustainability. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for making such a visual evaluation on the fly, one indicator of high performance can be how well the home defends itself against the hot sun, particularly for dwellings erected in warmer climates. And one of the best visual indicators can be the presence of window awnings and deeper-than-normal roof overhangs on the faces of the home where solar heat gain can be problematic.
Certainly, there is no substitute for reviewing the home’s green-building program certification status, its Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score, and of course the detailed specifications provided by the architect or builder. But the presence of carefully-planned awnings and overhangs can be a sure sign that the architectural or design-build firm has done due diligence in shielding the home against the detrimental effects of the summer sun, while also planning for taking advantage of desirable heat gain in the winter months. That design work is often done by using special 3D modeling software, so the impacts of both high and low sun angles are taken into account based on how the home will be positioned (or sited, in architect-speak) on the property.
So, taking the time to take a deeper gaze at awnings and overhangs should be on your green-home shopping checklist.