Exterior shot of a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio, which uses clay tiles to promote passive heating and cooling

Passive solar design is a no-brainer — yet the conventional way to deal with building facades that will be subjected to the hot, unrelenting sun is still just to insulate them, add some blinds, and plan to use a lot of air conditioning. It’s high time more architects and builders consider the ways the sun’s energy will affect a structure, and integrate some simple features that will make its interiors far more comfortable all year long.

Often low-tech and low-cost, passive solar techniques reduce energy costs and maintenance by tailoring designs to the climates around them. Orientation of the roof, windows, and facade with the position of the sun in mind, proper ventilation and insulation, shading, and thermal mass all make a big difference in interior temperatures.

Exterior shot of a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio, which uses clay tiles to promote passive heating and cooling
Inside Manoj Patel Design Studio's sustainable new home in Gujarat, India

The latter comes into play in a big (and beautiful) way in a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio. Located in Gujarat, western India, the modern home uses clay roof tiles in an unexpected fashion, displaying them along the east facade in a pleasing pattern. What’s more, 40 percent of the tiles are reclaimed from the waste of other construction projects.

Inside Manoj Patel Design Studio's sustainable new home in Gujarat, India

Clay is known for its thermal properties, retaining much of the energy it absorbs to cut down on the need for mechanical heating and cooling. It’s also highly durable, non-toxic, long lasting, and recyclable. Clay tiles on a sunny facade can absorb a lot of heat during the day, releasing it after dark when it’s cooler.

This isn’t the first time Manoj Patel Design Studio has experimented with clay roof tiles. Previously, the designers cut v-shaped clay tiles to create a wavy pattern on the facade of a house in Vadodara, India.

Exterior shot of a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio, which uses clay tiles to promote passive heating and cooling

The architects add: “Here the ratio of 40 percent of waste clay tiles at free cost and 60 percent of new clay tiles at 10 INR per piece were collected, cut into six to eight one-inch wide parts, fixed in with [a] chemical solution against the available perpendicular surface of wall at 45 degrees, and crafted into a customized series for obtaining an everlasting beauty… Furthermore, the layering of th[ese] horizontal and vertical clay tiles is [based on] sun’s movement from south to west throughout the day as per Indian context, which keeps the area shaded by reduction in temperature.”

“An illusionist display is casted on the uniform surface of the wall through these angular patterns, which transform the solid form into more organic mass. Thus, this dwelling carved out its own character through contrasting red-colored earthy textures and volumetric masses, becoming a distinguishing dwelling among the surrounding street.”

Exterior shot of a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio, which uses clay tiles to promote passive heating and cooling
Exterior shot of a new home by Manoj Patel Design Studio, which uses clay tiles to promote passive heating and cooling

In 2017, Manoj Patel Design Studio won a first place RTF Sustainability Award for its modular plantable screens made of clay tiles, which can be added to surfaces outside homes in places that receive a lot of solar exposure. Not only can you establish a vertical garden within these tiles, but you can also tuck lights into them for a look that’s even cooler after sunset.