The Making of a Solar, Passive, Off-Grid Home: The Architect’s Story



The design of a passive solar building is the compilation of art, architecture, astronomy, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  In January 1973, when I was a first semester student at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture, the overwhelming sentiment in academia was that we had an environmental emergency in progress.  Humankind had been burning fossil fuels at an alarming rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and there was hard, empirical evidence that we were changing the climate.  Our professors said we had to start designing structures that heated and cooled themselves, produced electricity, and actually improved the environment around them.  The oil embargo that same year reinforced our realization that the earth was finite as were our sources of energy.

Taking Matters Into My Own Hands

So it was with a sense of urgency that we built our first solar home in 1977 in the high country near the Navajo Nation in western New Mexico.  At a staggering 800 square feet, it was built of stone and wood framing.  The floor was 3 feet below ground level to tap the natural warmth of the earth.  A windmill pumped our water, a wood burning stove cooked our meals (and provided back up heat) and we read at night by the light of kerosene lamps.  As temperatures graced the 30 below zero mark, we learned some valuable lessons that we applied to other solar homes.

The Eco and High-Tech Home

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters