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Double Solar House

This house is a double solar house comprised of a photovoltaic system and a passive solar system.

The photovoltaic system consists of solar panels mounted on the south-sloping roof. It is large enough for panels to generate more power than the house will ever need. As a result, all the energy systems of the house are electric, allowing the house to operate efficiently without a carbon footprint.

The passive system balances the warmth of direct sun with the thermal storage of concrete. In the main living space, a long south-facing glass wall invites the low winter sun to penetrate deep into the house, warming the interior. Without the concrete mass, however, the winter sun would drive interior temperatures uncomfortably high. Instead, excess ambient heat is drawn into the concrete floor and into the concrete wall that bisects the length of the house. As a result, the interior is comfortably warmed during the day, and excess heat stored in the warmed concrete radiates back into the house on cold winter nights. This exchange reduces the need for mechanical cooling and heating.

In addition to providing thermal storage, the long concrete wall separates the private parts of the house from the open public parts, and structurally supports the roof. The roof is also supported by a row of concrete columns along the south wall that further absorbs excess heat from the sun for additional release at night.

In summer, the concrete continues to play a critical role in maintaining comfortable temperatures, this time inverting the winter exchange. By opening the house at night, mild Shenandoah Valley breezes cool the warmed concrete so it is ready to absorb heat again the next day, keeping the house cool.

The combination of solar energy and the natural rhythms of day and night heating and cooling not only eliminates consumption of fossil fuels, it will keep the inhabitants constantly in touch with the angle of the earth, the movement of the sun, and the succession of the seasons.

The site work surrounding this energy-efficient stand-alone urban house includes a perimeter hedge that is designed to maximize privacy for both the inhabitants and their neighbors, and give definition to the public street that borders the front of the house.