To rebuild my home on the existing site, but ensure maximum solar gain, I decided on a 30% narrower foot print. The house that existed on the site was 35 feet wide; to ensure maximum solar penetration, the new home was designed to be 20 wide in the bedroom wing and 24 feet wide in the kitchen and living room. This design allows the low-angled winter sun to penetrate very deeply in the dead of winter when heat is needed the most. Ideally, in a passive solar homes should be one-room deep, so each room is heated by the son independently.
Because the foundation was badly damaged in the fire, I hired an excavator to tear it down after we recycled all the aluminum, steel, and copper we could find in and among the charred remains of my home. We buried the foundation and the remainder of the house in a clearing in the woods, then leveled off the site. Vegetation is quickly growing over the grave.
In this photo my excavator is digging west of the house. We had to extend the dig by about 15 feet to accommodate the longer, narrower foot print. The dirt we removed was used to make earthen plasters and earthen floors.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.