Passive Solar

I knew that relying on only passive solar to heat the entire space would be unrealistic, but I wanted to still use it as much as I could.  The following diagrams show my strategies with solar shields, overhangs, and lightwells.  You can see the difference between the high summer sun and the low winter sun and how they effect the spaces.

I have a few ideas of how to treat the light wells and how they are open during the winter for solar gain and shielded in the summer to block direct light.  I could envision either an insulated translucent shield that would bolt on top in the winter, a solar panel that could cover it, or even something that hinges on the front of it, and can easily be shifted into the new position. 

Passive Cooling

The cross ventilation is important especially, it was a direct reaction of the form because of it.  The earth tubes are a bit more complicated.  Working with the north facing slope, it left my bedrooms in weird areas to be used for cross ventilation.  I looked into earth tubes as a result, and they work pretty good.  It is a way of using geothermal heat transfer with a mix of active fans to draw the hot air out of a space.  This is still a very loose solution....however it is a solution to incorporate some passive cooling for these hard to get spaces.


I really didn't know much about geothermal energy when I started this, but it is a very basic way to get energy from the earth.  This was actually a mention of the client so I decided to go with it.  This illustration also looks at my solution for minimizing earthwork, re-using the disturbed fill, and how the tubes can be coiled underneath a space that will already be getting dug up.   

The geothermal coils will be the main source of energy for the house.  This uses the earths thermal energy, and harnesses it in a circulating system.  This is a renewable energy source, and is extremely efficient.

Site Attributes

Garden space is one of the things I wanted to incorporate into the project.  It grows useful plants and vegetables for the inhabitant, as well as creates a natural filtration system to release the water back into the stream.  The tiered planters offer a way to utilize site water from one to the other.  The base is built up from extra cut land, the soil is used after it is collected and separated from the excavation. 

Design Development

Once the schematic design was done, I really had to start fine tuning my systems, materials, and square footage.  Milestone #5 should clarify my concepts of layout, form, and function.

First and foremost, I had about 500 SF excess space compared to my program outline and goals that I had developed.  I really needed to pull myself back, and ask what it was I was trying to do, and did my design coordinate with my philosophy?  I feel that is often to easy to get caught up in an intuitive design process where you design what you want rather than design what is appropriate.  To me, it is similar to the idea of self, and losing one's self.  I don't expect many of my readers will totally grasp this concept, but I need to talk about my process.  Losing "self", is like forcing an out of body perspective.  I am pretending that I have no previously conceived ideas about the project,  What is the ECO_AMPLEXUS all about?  Well, I am going to try and clear that up, because I felt for a little while, that I have gotten lost within the idea of the design.  

concept 3d.jpg

The process for this design is completely different from designing a typical house without any regards to nature, or having any goal in mind.  This house's primary job is to function as a comfortable living space; but the whole concept of the ECO-AMPLEXUS is to operate as a machine.  The house has to work as efficiently as possible which makes this design process difficult.  The question becomes....How can I make this Beautiful but still work?  This was my design solution.  I took the previous schematic iteration and started to fit into my own "ideas".  This home consists of three parts: Private  Space, Expansion Space, and Sacred Space.  All have to be separate but at the same time joined together.  There needs to be a space that is the hierarchy of the entire structure that blends all of the spaces together.  This becomes the Expansion Space.  The private space must be connected but only at the convenience of the visitor, or inhabitant.  The sacred space must be small, quaint, and personal.  All three must exist separate, but in unity.

I thought that a good way to put function to form was to build a physical model.  I only built a few models during my time at Fairmont, but it is really an enjoyable process, as well as a good way to see things that you just can't see with computer models.  This was a way to take the schematics from my most recent iteration and evolve it through this model.  It ultimately led me to the even further evolution which you will see at the end of this blog post.

The main purpose of the model build was to really explore the tectonics of the structure.  One of my primary goals was that this could be built rather quickly.  I tried to think of everything as a component, or a prefabricated puzzle that would be pieced together in a matter of days, rather than weeks.  I also  want to let the architectural composition speak for itself.  I want the inhabitant, and visitors, to be able to see how the house is constructed.  The concept drives the form, the form is created by the material, and the material conveys the concepts.  This cycle is what embodies good architecture.  

Stair Access to 2nd Floor

Master Bedroom

Kitchen/Dining/Living Space

 Balcony View

The next blog I am going to go in depth with my ideas about the systems and how I will be taking advantage of passive cooling/heating, airflow, radiant floor heating, geothermal heat, water harvesting, grey water recycling, etc.  Now that I have given some insight to my material choice, I will be looking for any and all suggestions to fine tune and tweak everything as a whole.  I am currently in the process of experimenting with the garden layout, and my entrance sequence.