I've built computer energy performance models on millions of square feet of commercial and residential buildings, and I've long been lobbying local window vendors and installers to look at exactly this issue ("Sun Block," Nov. 17).
There absolutely are high solar gain low-E windows available that maximize free solar heating without sacrificing any of their insulating properties. They're not even any more expensive, they're just not normally specified so they're not stocked in our market.
It doesn't have to be this way. If building owners understand the issue and demand them, building designers and suppliers will comply and meet that demand.
By the way, complying with California's Title 24 Building Energy Code does NOT mean a building is particularly energy efficient. It just means that the building has the bare minimum requirements to meet the standard. Supposedly these buildings beat that standard by 15 percent, which is commendable, but it's really not difficult to beat it by 40 percent or more, and there are incentive programs that subsidize a significant part of the cost of doing so.
It really does look to me like the project was of the cookie-cutter variety that failed to take into account our local climate conditions. In doing so, HSU failed to be the green leader it claims to be.
Balancing building temperatures is a valid concern only where you have very large spaces with little or no zone control. It's completely irrelevant if you have self-contained apartments with their own thermostats or individual zone controls as in most all new commercial construction.
On those rare days when my house ever gets too warm, I just try to enjoy it for that whole 15 minutes while it's happening. If I get uncomfortable I open a window on the north side and it's back to warm socks and a thick sweater in no time.
Scott Willits, Arcata