Design of a Green Home

In the last blog post, I wrote about teh home where I live in Tiburon, CA.

Before embarking on the ambitious remodeling project that lasted 18 months, we decided to live in the existing home for about 1 year so that we could experience all 4 seasons in it as it existed.  The home consisted of essentially 4 areas –

  1. the original home, built in 1971, which had a couple of bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, and separate kitchen, living room and dining room.
  2. an apartment that could be rented out that had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a galley kitchen and combination living room and dining room.
  3. an addition to the home that added 2 more bedrooms and a more formal entry and staircase
  4. an outside that included some landscaping and an irrigation system to water it all using water from the Marin Water District.

Because of when the original home and apartment were built – clearly in a time of cheap energy – these spaces were poorly insulated, had single pane glass and doors and windows that made the home drafty on windy days.  The addition to the home was better built but still less than we thought acceptable today.

Our goal in the remodel was to first save substantial energy in the design through better insulation, better windows and doors, better management of lighting and more efficient appliances.  This included insulation in the ceilings of the home where typically sometimes none existed before, insulation also on inside walls for sound proofing but also so that some sleeping rooms could be cooler than the core of the home.

We also worked with the builder to insulate the underside of the home.  The home is situated on a very steep hillside, and sits on steel stilts that leave its underside substantially exposed and this area receives string wind and storm buffeting in the winter/raining season.

By better sealing each of these areas, the house was made tighter and warmer through out the year.  You may ask what happens when the summer days are very hot?  In Tiburon, because we are on the water, this happens rarely.  But when it does, we are able to open the house and then the normal winds help us stay cool and comfortable.  (The remodel saw us change from gas furnaces to heat pumps.  This gave us air conditioning ability but we have never used it to keep cool.)

We also designed in more glass facing east and south so that the home would have substantial solar passive heat gain.  The home has roof over hangs that serve to keep the sunlight on the decks during the summer months but in the winter, as the sun’s rays have a lower angle to the home, the sun comes naturally into the home.  This really helps the heating in the winter.

Of course there are solar photovoltaic and hot water panels on the roof to make energy for the home.  And we also have cisterns below the house.

In future essays, I will present details about the home.  In this way, we can share with you our decisions and how they have worked out.  Much of what we did was relatively inexpensive and has rapid pay back.  Here is the essay roadmap over the next few weeks –

  • Solar hot water
  • HVAC and insulation
  • solar photovoltaic – electrical power
  • lighting
  • appliances
  • Audio/Video
  • green materials
  • monitoring and control systems
  • luxuries – pool, hot tub, fire place

Hope you enjoy these pieces.

As I am able to complete the series, the home should be a part of this web site.  Real time data for our daily electrical, water and gas consumption as well as data for how much energy we generate and how much water we store.  The goal is to make it a real time score card for how the home is performing.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Personal Stories

  1. Hi Frank, I noticed that we have a common interest on saving energy. I am using home automation technology to improve energy savings, and to provide comfort, safety and security. I am studying ways to assess home I.Q and home behavior. Check my site Presently, I can monitor my home in Florence from Berkeley, and I can check on the web the electrical power consumed at any time. I am interested in visiting you and exchange some ideas like in the old times.

  2. fussball says:

    Gute Arbeit hier! Gute Inhalte.

  3. This is of a small solar panel 100Wp that allows to power the security system and automation system. The panel powers a 27 volts SCS bus used for home automation and security. It sustains prolonged black outs while away of home. Scenarios in the home controller optimize the use of solar power according to time of day, status of power line and battery charge.

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