La Casa del Sol: A Passive-Solar House

Read about how sister Paula Gonzalez gathered volunteers to create a super-insulated, passive-solar house called La Casa del Sol.

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    La Casa del Sol could loosely be called a retrofit, in that it incorporates the frame of one end of an agricultural building.
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    Diagram of the La Casa del Sol passive-solar house.

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A self-styled freelance futurist, Sister Paula Gonzalez, has brought together 35 friends to accomplish the improbable passive-solar house: La Casa del Sol. 

April 29, 1985 


In late August 1982, the first meeting of volunteers for this "Saturday project" came together to hear my plan for converting an old frame farm building into a future-sustainable home. In the course of three years, some 35 people have been involved in one way or another, for longer or shorter stints. (Jerry Ropp, our de facto foreman, hasn't missed a single Saturday since that first meeting.) 

All materials for the house you see in the pictures were either [1] recycled, [2] purchased using money made from recycling — especially yard and clothing sales but also some metal salvage — or [3] donated. I don't have detailed cost figures at this point (since I'm not only the bookkeeper but also the orderer, general contractor, soup maker, and apprentice plumber, tiler, carpenter, drywall finisher, etc.), but I do know that we've raised about $12,000 or $13,000 and still have $500 in the bank. That means that in anyone's dollars, the 1,500-square-foot, superinsulated, passive-solar house that Sister Mary Bookser and I now live in — I call it La Casa del Sol, "the house of the sun" — cost less than $10 per square foot to build. What's more, our all — electric residence used less than 500 kwh of power (and a few construction scraps in the woodstove) in February of this year. 




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