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Colorado Solar Mountain House

Credits: ©2015 Solaripedia

This 2,850-square-foot guest house in the Colorado Rocky Mountains uses earth berming and a vegetated roof to create a low profile, and a sophisticated solar thermal system to achieve energy efficiency. A large bank of solar thermal panels, along with a back-up boiler, are part of a central heating loop and building information system that keep the main house, spa and pool heated when needed. The solar panels provide the main façade for the secondary spaces that include the garage, storage areas, and bedrooms. This thick solar wall for harvesting solar energy on the south side of the guest house is the first feature seen when driving to the garage. In the summer, solar heat is collected from this bank of panels to heat the pool and spa. In winter, the solar heat is used to condition the interior, heat the spa, and keep the pool water temperature above freezing.


Colorado Solar Mountain House

A solar guest house in Colorado designed by Peter Gluck + Partners Architects incorporates solar panels into the building façade. Integrated sensors and smart programming capabilities help increase the solar harvest and minimize use of the boiler, with annual energy consumption 32 percent less than its average counterpart. ©2015 Peter Gluck + Partners / Steve Mundinger

The guesthouse is configured as two rectilinear steel-framed forms that intersect; the primary form reaches out perpendicular to the original, main house and contains a great room with living and dining areas, with a roof gradually rising to the south at a 20-degree angle. The volume joins with the other rectilinear structure - running east–west on a slight diagonal - comprising three bedrooms, bathrooms and the garage. Both of these new forms are covered with sod roof meadows that make the house almost invisible from the road. The building forms also create a large courtyard with a pool that connects the two houses, and a smaller private courtyard for the guest house.

The interior floors and the pool act as heat sinks during the day, releasing heat at night when it is often needed to offset cooler night temperatures and helping to eliminate or reduce mechanical heating. An integrated building information management system uses real-time sensors information and remotely controls energy performance. This system enables the building to respond to changing environmental conditions and has reduced energy costs and fossil fuel usage by more than 60%.

Inside, continuous clerestory glass provides a completely day-lit space with panoramic views of the mountains. The living and dining areas are faced on two sides with large sliding glazed doors that open to the pool on the east and to a private, triangular courtyard on the west. CorTen steel panels form the private courtyard's sloped retaining wall, into which an outdoor fireplace is carved.

The architects, Gluck+ (formerly Peter Gluck and Partners) had designed a main house for the property in 2004 and were invited to design a guest house to the south, between a creek and an access road. The challenge was to create a structure that did not interfere with the mountain views from the main house. Completed in February 2012, the resulting AIA award-winning home has reduced energy loads with a design that does not negatively impact the natural landscape.


Gluck Plus Architects

Colorado Solar Panel Installers

Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association