Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part II

design Nov 01, 2018
The following is an excerpt from Twisted Oak: A Journey to Create a Self-Sustaining Life and Home 
by Kristina Munroe
Since the road approached the house from the west, the logical location for the front door was on this side of the house. 

Creating a separate entry room allowed for a place to remove shoes, hang coats, and welcome guests. A western entry would not interfere with the southern heating system, and by adding a door to divide this room from the main living space, the space would function as a type of airlock, keeping out the harsh cold of winter as well as the sweltering heat of summer. 

A systems room in this area would create a place for the filter system to conveniently receive water from the cisterns also located on the west side of the house. I sized this separate room to house all of the mechanical and electrical equipment required to run the technical facets of the home.

A back door placed on the east wall and directly across from the front door became the cross-ventilation system. If the house needed extra cooling or ventilation, opening the front and back doors helped in cooling the structure by taking advantage of the prevailing westerly breeze. 

The primary ventilation system consisted of operable skylights in each room. This glazing not only added ample light to the rooms, but also allowed control of the air flow through the house. 

Actively ventilating the home only required opening some of the southern windows along with the corresponding skylight in that room, creating a natural air flow. 

The water collection system would collect water that landed on the roof, carrying it through a conventional gutter to the cisterns. 

Last but not least, the northern tire wall sloped into the hillside, retaining the earth. This wall had the freedom to twist and to flow as it nestled and conformed to the landscape. It spiraled its tail end around the eastern piñon, forming a sweeping arc around my proposed bedroom. Becoming more linear across the interior spaces of the house, it would give into a final giant S-curve around the cisterns. 

Building this wall would demand an enormous amount of attention and labor, but in return, it would give back in many ways. Its depth and massive weight would create considerable thermal mass, an important element in our heating and cooling system. 

Closing the computer to take a break, I pondered the wonder of the house taking form. Undoubtedly, each of the natural elements was essential to the function of Twisted Oak. 

Many ancient indigenous cultures have honored the elements and directions in the construction of their sacred sites. For example, the ancient Celts, residing in the northern hemisphere, equated the element of Earth with North, Air with East, Fire with South, and Water with West. Embedding these ancient, natural elements into Twisted Oak felt like a significant step in forming a home that worked in harmony with the natural world. 

Twisted Oak’s form and structure were now defined, and they already provided a framework for some essential systems of the house: passive solar heating and cooling, heat storage, ventilation, and water collection. 

Stay tuned for future post as we dive into the details of all of these systems.


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