Windows capture the early morning light.   Deep porches provide shade. 
                   To the west, a massive wall absorbs afternoon heat.

     Earth covers the roof, protecting it from the summer heat and wildfires.

     The Lantern brings daylight and ventilation to the center of the house.

Arched beams rise overhead to the east light of the clerestory windows.

  All core living spaces enjoy windows on two sides and beams overhead.

 The images above are typical products of our 3D architecture design program.



Achieving the Owner's Goals

The property has been in the family for generations, eighty acres of grass and Chaparral in the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains, subject to hot dry summers, cold wet winters, and wind-driven wildfire.  The Owners want to add a small second house, set at some distance from the main house. 

We propose to dig the new house into one of the hillsides, so it will fit quietly into the landscape, and for fire safety and energy conservation reasons.  The excavation makes it possible to bury the harsh-weather walls in protective earth (NW & NE) and then cover the roof with sod. 

To prevent the "cave" effect, we kept the two sunny sides open to the landscape (southeast and southwest). On both, we added porches to shade the house and its inhabitants from the summer heat.  We provided a thick masonry wall on the southwest side, which will act as a thermal flywheel to manage the afternoon heat.

All of these features work together, to reduce energy consumption, and also to protect the house from wildfire.

  In summary, this house has the following energy conserving features:

  • Lantern for day-lighting
  • Clerestory for day-lighting
  • Arched ceiling for day-lighting
  • Overhangs to shade windows
  • Porches to shade house
  • Earth-sheltered walls
  • Earth-sheltered roof
  • Heat-sink wall to west
  • Chimney-effect ventilation
  • All-house ventilation fans

These features are all "passive" - excepting the fans, - that is, they manage energy without moving parts, and have little maintenance.  The energy conservation they yield is the essential foundation of all true green architecture.

We are ready now to consider active solar collection. We can easily add solar collectors (to the roof, or collect the heat from the southwest wall) to heat the domestic hot water supply and/or heat the house.  In any case, we are thinking the floor will be artistically stained concrete, a passive solar heat sink that is naturally cool in the summer. Hot water tubes can be installed in that floor to make it radiate warmth in the winter. 

In the next planning phase, "Design Development", we will work out how to integrate the mechanical, electrical and structural systems, while refining the interior and exterior.  What we illustrate here is the general strategy we propose to follow going forward.

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