Paul Breaux, Designer
The house was primarily designed for southern exposure to maximize passive solar gain and the efficiency of rooftop solar collectors for electricity. The dining room, living room, and kitchen are incorporated into one open space to give as much utility as possible, and help the home maintain a comfortable and even internal temperature year around. An attached sunspace on the east and part of the south sides of the house is an integral part of what makes the house work so well. It provides solar heating during winter, and 700 square feet of growing room. It is a buffer zone during warm weather, as large overhangs shade the direct sun out.
The goals of the foundation deisgn was to make use of the area's warm subsoil during the cool season in a way that does not cause uncomfortable heat gain during the summer. The ground at the foundation level varies from 63 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year in central Texas. Most temperature variatiion occurs in the upper two feet of earth, so the top 2 - 4 feet of the foundation is insulated with rigid foam along the perimeter to disconnect it from fluctuating upper soil temperatures. The foundation's insulation goes as deep as four feet on the south side of the house and no more than two feet on the north side of the house.
The lower part of the foundation is not insulated; it is coupled to the warmer subsoil, which stays at about 70 degrees all year. This system allows the home's thick thermal mass walls to dissipate heat during the summer, and absorb and retain heat when it is cool. The system helps maintain a relatively consistent indoor year around temperature without the need to use a nonrenewable energy source. The main concern was to balance heat gain during the winter with heat dissipation during the summer. Subsoil temperature fluctuations on this particular site were determined, and used to determine how deep the foundation's insulation should go on each side of the house.
Stored solar heat is released from the water containers as needed. Heat flows
naturally by low temperature radiation and by warm air convection to the north
side of the house, thus balancing comfort zones throughout the living space.
* Floor plans, elevation drawings, a CD with interior and exterior photos,
and published articles.
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