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...

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Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part III

design Nov 01, 2018

In the following excerpt, I continue to explain how I designed the interior of our passive solar, self-sustaining home. This layout fit my family’s lifestyle, but it is only one of many possibilities. Every home is unique to the climate and the land it’s built on, and to the person or family who creates it.

It is more important to understand the method of thinking through how to work with nature and the power of the sun to design a home that will heat and cool itself, potentially collect water, and utilize greywater as a resource rather than waste. 

Whether we live on the grid or off-grid, using the power of the sun to heat and cool could reduce our consumption of fossil fuels used by our homes by 80%-100%. 

Of course, it is most effective in areas like the Southwest where we have abundant sunshine year around. But, I incorporated just one glass door on the south side of my kitchen when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and it transformed the light in the house...

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Passive Solar Heating & Cooling ~ Part I

design Nov 01, 2018

“Form follows function — that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” 

~ Frank Lloyd Wright 

The following is an excerpt from Twisted Oak: A Journey to Create a Self-Sustaining Life and Home 
by Kristina Munroe

Designing Twisted Oak to coexist with the native and wild land was imperative. Our home needed to work within the influential cycles of the seasons and leave as minuscule a footprint as possible on the world. 

In fact, I wanted to believe that not only this home but every building has the capacity to make a contribution to the Earth rather than deplete our natural resources and destroy the environment. 

Most people think of vehicles and industry as the most prevalent polluters, but our homes and buildings are significant consumers of energy and materials that cause greenhouse gasses. 

The first consideration for my design began months ago as I hung out with my dog at the building...

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Connecting with Your Land

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2018

“I didn’t know precisely how the house would look, but I wanted to get a feel of the land that would soon become my home. I sat quietly listening to the wind and the birds, feeling the sun on my face, and noticing how the light shown through the trees. Our new home and lifestyle needed to fit into this wilderness, not destroy it. An understanding of the land’s rhythms of wind and light and the constant change of animals and plants was imperative. Each day, I returned to the stand of dead oak and the log in the clearing to listen, observe, and get to know our new property.”

~ From Twisted Oak: A Journey to Create a Self-Sustaining Life and Home

Imperative as it is to find the perfect piece of land to build an eco-friendly, self-sustaining, or even conventional home, it is only the very beginning of the journey.

It is our responsibility to take guardianship of the land, caring for it through all of the destructive phases of building.

There is no way of...

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Finding the Best Property for a Self-Sustaining Home

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2018

My mouth dropped open in awe as I took in the stunning landscape of forest and sky. Dark hills framed a stunning pastoral view. We were standing on a perfect south-facing slope. Dad looked at me with a grin and said, “I think this would make a splendid location to build an Earthship.”

Others had considered building here, but the cost to bring in power lines was prohibitive. There was no well on the property and no guarantee that drilling one would produce drinkable water. The soil has slow percolation rates, so it would be expensive to build a septic system and leach field. Dad went on to say that if I were serious about constructing a self-sustaining home that generated power, caught water, and dealt with septic in another way, then none of those issues applied to me. Did they?

My Dad’s voice was soft in my ear. “It might just be my opinion, but I think this is more appealing than what you are looking at in Taos.” He added another boyish grin for good...

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Why Live in a Self-Sustaining Home?

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2018

"Living in a self-sufficient house may seem like it has limitations to some who insist on having an unlimited supply of power and water at their disposal at every moment.

But to me, it’s a gift to live with an awareness of the resources we consume and to link our lifestyle to the rhythms of nature. There is a powerful sense of confidence resulting from sailing our own ship free from rising gas, electricity, water, and waste removal expenses.

Relishing cloudy days as a great excuse to postpone the laundry, I can choose to read a book.

Cherishing evenings without a movie blaring from the television, we enjoy the peace permeating the house while we read books or quietly work on homework.

I bask in the glory of a wet spring storm as the rain fills the cisterns with fresh water free from chemicals and additives.

Emptying a bucket from the waterless toilet into the outside composting bin is a ritual of giving back nutrients to the Earth rather than polluting, or at the very least,...

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Welcome to Twisted Oak

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2018

If you've found this blog, then you are probably aware that I have written a book about the creation of our home we call Twisted Oak. Many of the folks who have visited us since we’ve built and lived in our self-sustaining house have suggested that I write a book. Until recently, I never took the idea of writing about my journey very seriously. I certainly didn't foresee writing a blog.

Then, in the fall of 2016, we decided to open the house up to visitors during the 4Core Solar Home Tour, here in Durango. After touring the house and garden, groups of attendees began to congregate around the property. They were discussing self-sustaining homes, passive and active solar design, water catchment and alternatives to traditional septic systems. These people were asking intelligent questions, and their minds were open to possibilities. It was these discussions that inspired me to tell my story - not because I have all the answers, but because we need to engage in conversations that...

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