Solarsmith, a green building firm out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently helped Betsy Armstrong and Richard Barr build an eco-friendly, traditional southwest-style home in the foothills of Santa Fe. The residence's roof is filled with solar panels, which are tied into the grid, helping to heat water for the radiant floors, exercise pool and appliances. Excess energy is fed to neighboring homes.
The designer, Mitchell Smith, explains that with off-grid living you can often end up with wasted excess energy, but by being plugged into the grid, you can share. It also eliminates days when you run out of stored solar energy and have to switch to another source. As long as you are net zero energy annually, that's what matters.
Solarsmith uses the "thermal envelope" method of exterior wall construction — walls are double framed with a two inch layer of closed cell insulation foam outside, creating an air pocket in between that helps to insulate the home against drastic temperatures outside. The home was also oriented to take advantage of passive solar effects. Another element, essential for a green desert home is the home's 10,000-gallon cistern which collects water runoff from the roof, providing the irrigation for the landscaping. They also took an extra measure, adding a subterranean reclaimed water system to provide extra water directly to the roots of their plants.
Except for a small orchard, the design uses the xeriscape method of landscaping, which means using low-maintenance, native plants that require little water. And with the southwest desert landscape loosing plants to extinction every year, it is very important to encourage the growth of these native, and rare, species. The home's windows are made of pine from local, responsibly harvested forests and the cherry wood flooring is FSC-certified. Natural plaster walls and, of course, energy-efficient compact fluorescent lighting are some of the final eco-friendly touches. The goal of Solarsmith is to help clients achieve green homes that are not short on comfort or style and this residence is certainly a shining example of that.
[+] Spreading Sunshine by Natural Home Magazine.
Photo credits: Daniel Nadelbach.
Article tags: alternative energy, New Mexico, residential