the artistic possibilities
of designing with nature
Design and construct the man-made environment to be in harmony with the natural environment.

RFS Solar Work 1979-82

Blue Hills, East Windham, and Solar Renaissance

Every once in a blue moon, in Blue Hills, evil spirits rise from Hell to haunt a building project. The clients wanted a "traditional" country home with solar heat and hot water. The design, a neo-Lutyens country manor, was visually devastated during construction, principally because the contractor went broke during framing, and the clients decided, against the advice of the architect, to be their own general contractor, (even though they were medical professionals). Serious design intentions quickly became a Hobbit shire-house after numerous revisions without architectural input. Major materials and patterns were modified, annihilating any chance at producing architectural excellence. However the solar elements were maintained and functioned well. Heated air from the central greenhouse is ducted to a rock bed under the kitchen floor through exposed ducts that become a giant sculpted canopy between the family room and the eat-in kitchen. Three solar-driven vent chimneys exhaust hot air in summer. The complex geometries and the original design (plans and model) can be seen in GA Houses 19.

An Antibellum farmhouse in severe decay was a family summer house for many years. When it was decided that it should become a full-time residence, a total renovation was required,as well as some small additions. The existing building consisted of two rectangles overlapping slightly at the corners. It was decided that the historic portion would be faithfully restored, but with new foundations, a layer of insulating glass inside the single-glazed double hung windows, and new insulation for all exterior surfaces. Exterior clapboards and trim boards were repaired or replaced. Additions were installed in the intersection of the two rectangles and the entrance facing northwest, and a new kitchen with greenhouse facing southeast. An additional section of raised roof on the smaller rectangle allowed for a new guest room. The kitchen provided a 2-story space with overlooks from the master bedroom and guest room, providing a social center for the house. Active solar collectors were added on the south facing pitched roof. See GA Houses 11 for details.

The Solar Renaissance House is a prototype for the suburbs; a cross-axial plan with right and lefthand versions allows plug-ins at 3 of the 4 quadrants, the other being the solar wall. The solar systems are direct gain, and there is a sunspace connected to a vertical rock bed. The sunspace rises vertically to the top of the house with diagonal walls, allowing the four adjacent rooms to open into it and to benefit from its direct sunlight. This system was developed by the architect, while working in the multi-family passive solar program of the Massachusetts Energy Office. Different finishes,colors, and landscaping can create variations from house to house.

A variation the above sunspace scheme was integrated into a typical New England gabled-roof house for submission to a state of Vermont sponsored competition. The computer simulation plots outside air temperatures against sunspace temperature, and inside room temperatures (red=sunspace, yellow=inside, green=backup heat, and black=outside) using real weather data. The shaded band shows the inside comfort zone. The sunspace bleeds off into a growing greenhouse in front of the dining room, and is large compared to the living spaces. This is where solar design becomes something grander than a heat system. The wining entry merely had some windows on the south and was partially earth sheltered, severely lacking in imagination and pride.