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This 1750-square-foot, off-the-grid residence in the California Gold Country, outside the town of Murphys, was designed as a summer and winter vacation house for a San Francisco couple with two young children. The green building is divided into “live” and “sleep” buildings, each about 875 square feet, which are sited to capture views. The gap between the wings funnels breezes from the valley below. The courtyard is a calm, encompassing space for relaxation and play.
The house is remotely sited, quite far from the local utility grid. Satellite internet access allows the couple to telecommute when desired and spend longer periods of time in the country.
CCS Architecture designed the sustainability program in collaboration with the client. The features include:
• Structural slabs contain radiant heat
• Large overhangs that provide maximum shade in summer and allow passive heat gain and daylight during winter
• Windows and skylights with insulated, low-e glass; all are operable to admit maximum air ventilation during the summer for cooling. Opened at night, the windows allow cooler air to push heat out of the house. They are closed during the day to keep the house cool.
• The home's walls and roof are structurally insulated panels (SIPs), which not only are “structural” but have high insulative value, significantly higher than conventional construction.
• Larger, north-facing windows that provide maximum daylight without heat gain during summer; large southern overhangs minimize heat gain.
• Overhangs and arbor roofs have foil backing to reflect hot summer sun and also have solar vent fan to vent heat, keeping open exterior space underneath cool
• Energy provided by 24 PV panels with battery storage and backup propane generator, installed by Sol Sierra Inc. • Heating is provided by a hydronic radiant heat system when needed (powered by propane boiler) and by one high-efficiency wood burning stove in the “live” building
• Water is obtained through an on-site well-–pumped uphill to storage tank by photovoltaics and gravity-fed to house
• Siding and underside of soffits is natural cedar with penetrating oil
• Paints are low VOC and flooring material is polished concrete with rugs