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Design: Passive vs Active

 , May 27, 2016 updated on June 04, 2017
Passive design is a system or structure that directly uses natural energy such as sunlight, wind, temperature differences or gravity to achieve a result without electricity or fuel. Active design is a system or structure that uses or produces electricity.
The term passive design is most often used with respect to architecture and infrastructure. For example, a building may have wide windows that automatically let in more light when the building needs heat and automatically shade when the building is too hot.
Another common area of passive design is wet infrastructure such as drainage systems that generally often don't consume power but use gravity to move water.
Most devices and infrastructure have an active design as they use electricity. The term is typically only used in comparison to passive designs. For example, solar panels that produce electricity are often referred to as active solar as a comparison to using solar passively for heat or to grow plants.

Passive Benefits

Passive designs are often valued for their simplicity and aesthetic appeal. They also tend to have zero operational costs. As they often contain no moving parts, passive designs potentially last for centuries.
Electrical components are valued for their accuracy and functionality but may need to be regularly maintained and replaced. They may also have a higher operational cost and environmental impact.
Passive Design vs Active Design
Passive DesignActive Design
DefinitionInfrastructure, architecture and devices that achieve a result by directly using natural forces without first converting it to electricity.Infrastructure, architecture and devices that use or produce electricity to achieve a result.
ExamplesPassive Heating
Passive Cooling
Green Roofs
Rain Gardens
Solar Panels
Wind Turbines
District Heating
Deep Water Cooling

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