Santa Fe Sustainability with Solar

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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.

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[+] Spreading Sunshine by Natural Home Magazine.

Photo credits: Daniel Nadelbach.


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  • http://mportlandrealestate.com Tyler Portland Real Estate

    Amazing home. I would love something like this, though I live in Portland so the construction would be different to keep up with the climate needs.

  • http://osharavillage.com Zev Paiss

    I wanted to highlight another very exciting project in Santa Fe that will showcase many environmentally designed homes.

    As you know, Americans are searching for a clear picture of what the future will look like given the tremendous force that is about to be exerted by the Obama Stimulus Package. This spending is not only a stimulus package but an effort to change economic and industrial direction for our nation from one that we know is depleting to one that we hope is sustainable. Like when a rock hits a wall it changes direction, so our economy has “hit the wall” and is certainly changing direction.

    So what could this new model look like? How can we use less energy and still live a more fulfilling life? That is the question many Americans are asking and when a writer, Neshama Abraham wrote a little piece exploring this and looking at Oshara Village in Santa Fe New Mexico as a model, the internet picked up on it and made it the top pick for the Google search “Obama Future Today”

    Oshara Village has super energy efficiency and mixed-use design that will provide homes, jobs and schools in walking distance. The Plaza and the first 40 homes are complete and a new line of Gold Certified, more cost efficient homes have emerged as a result of this economic change in direction. The first 20 families, the Oshara Pioneers are quickly becoming a community and more are moving in every month. Google “Obama Future Today” and see what the future might look like.

  • Andrew Cichon

    I’d love to go PV power but, takes about 30 years to recover the installation cost at current electricity rates. What we need is another technological breakthrough akin to the PC revolution to get the payback to 5 yrs or less. If or when the economics get there, the businees will explode, wether wind or solar.

    • Neil

      If possible, include the PV system in your 30-year mortgage when you build or purchase your home. At 6% interest, each $1,000 of the 30-year mortgage costs $6 a month. So a $20,000 system would cost an extra $120 a month. With a fixed-rate mortgage this would never increase during the next 30 years. In other words, the cost for the electricity produced would never go up. The cost per kwh might be higher than the utility’s rate at the beginning but when the utility’s rate increases in later years your cost per kwh becomes more competitive.

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