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The plan is open, the energy efficiency is high.

The plan is open, the energy efficiency is high

Cut into a hillside, this 1,230-square-foot solar house settles into its wooded site without losing sight of the sun. The sloping lot allows guests to enter on the northfacing upper floor; the level below is partially protected and insulated by the hill. For maximum solar gain and a view over the countryside, most of the windows are on the south-facing wall.

Architect Michael Rubenstein of Healdsburg, California, gave the energy-efficient house an informal, open plan. The entry balcony, master bedroom, and a bath perch above a combined kitchen-living-dining area and a second bath. The downstairs opens to a courtyard defined by a curving wing wall that extends from the bermed west side of the house.

The house combines active and passive solar elements. In winter, the sun stays low in the sky, so its rays penetrate indoors where tile floors soak up heat. As hot air builds toward the second-story ceiling, it's drawn off by a fan mounted in the hollow pipe of the spiral stair. This heat flows to a vertical rock bin behind the fireplace wall. At night, the rock and floors release heat to living spaces. A solar hot-water system works year-round.

In summer, extended eaves block the higher sun, while excess house heat is dumped into the rock bed. At night, vents exhaust that heat to the outside and draw in cool night air, which also lowers the temperature of the rocks.

Photo: Rectangular columns support eave extensions for summer shade

Photo: Main room on bottom level has double-glazed sliding doors to countyard. Near doors, steel column supports corner of upstairs bedroom. Below curving hearth is grille that screens the rock bin behind paneled wall

Photo: On winter days, sun reaches indoors; tile floors store heat. As warm air rises, fan draws it through support tube of spiral stairs, down to rock storage. Ledge above rock is entry level. Drawing shows section of house's east end

Photo: On winter nights, system reverses: fan draws off room air at floor level, drives it through warm rock bin and back to living spaces. Floors also release stored heat

Photo: Steel tube at center of spiral staircase stops short of ceiling; the hollow tube channels hot air down into rock bin. Curving glass-block wall lends privacy but keeps stairwell bright

Photo: Eave extension has skylights to let winter sun reach deep indoors yet still provide protection from rain
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1986
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