Designing a Passive Solar Building Teacher Sheet

Designing a Passive Solar Building Teacher Sheet Photo Credit: By Jeremy Levine (CC BY 2.0) vie flickr.


This page is to provide some additional information on how to use the Planner 5D software and a sample rubric for scoring the students work. It is highly recommended that you spend some time learning the Planner 5D software before introducing it to the students. It is not difficult to learn, but having some prior experience with it will be helpful.

Planner 5D

Start by watching How to Make Floor-Plans Fast and Easy with Planner 5D, the overview video that shows the basics of using the software.

When you go to Planner 5D for the first time, you will want to select start a project from scratch. When you do that, it will bring up a brief tutorial that shows the features of the program.

After reading those pages, close the window, and you will see one room on your screen. This is the start of your design. From there, you can add rooms by copying and pasting the one on the screen, or by selecting rooms of different shapes from the menu on the left.

Once the basic room shapes have been drawn, then you can add features like doors and windows by selecting the construction tab from the menu on the left. You can rotate and resize doors and windows as needed. When you insert a window, for example, there is a dialog box at the bottom of the screen that allows you to adjust the dimensions.

Adding furniture and landscaping is done much the same way. Select the tab for the menu on the left, and insert the feature you want. You can resize, rotate, duplicate and change colors by selecting the tools on the popup menus on each item. Just “play” with it until you get a feel for it. It is a small learning curve.


The following rubric assumes that the passive solar home is being built in a cool climate where the home would be heated in the winter months. When grading using this rubric, keep in mind the limitations of the free version of the software. The students may find that they were unable to include certain items in the design without spending money (which of course we don’t want or need them to do). If their written explanations tell you what they would have included that was not available in the program, that is sufficient.






Selection of Geographic Location

Site has limited southern exposure

Site is mostly southern exposure but has trees that would block sunlight

Site is mostly southern exposure and are clear of trees that would block sunlight.

Site has maximum southern exposure, good choices of landscaping, is appropriately sized, has access to roads, etc.



No completed.

Does not have the correct orientation and has less than 5 rooms, or the rooms do not have with doors, windows, wall coverings, flooring, decorations, furniture, etc.

Has the correct orientation, but has less than 5 rooms, or the rooms do not have with doors, windows, wall coverings, flooring, decorations, furniture, etc.

Long axis of the house is East/West.  South facing wall has lots of windows.

Has 5 or more rooms with doors, windows, wall coverings, flooring, decorations, furniture, etc.

Thermal Mass


No Thermal Mass included

Only minimal attempt at including a thermal mass such as tile flooring only

Uses a thermal mass, but the material is not effective or there is not enough of it.

Shows the presence of a thermal mass of appropriate material and in sufficient quantity



No landscape design present

A few trees and shrubs included, but with little to no effect on cooling or heating

Landscape design may contribute to cooling and heating, but does not include much variety.

 Landscape design clearly contributes to cooling in summer and heating in winter using a variety of sizes a types of vegetation.


This teacher sheet is a part of the Designing a Building Using Passive Solar Energy lesson.

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