You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘5 – June 2010 Summer Solstice’ category.

Although it’s terribly hot outside, owners of sun-inspired houses are staying cool – even in areas with really hot summers! Below, we share some comments from our really cool home owners!

Did you know that many of the sun-inspired design guidelines for letting in the winter sun, also keeps out the summer sun?

Through Feedback found on our web site footer, a visitor asked if we could designate which plans worked best in hot or cold climates.  With the Custom Energy Specs that Sun Plans provides with orders of Construction Prints or CAD Files, it’s much easier than you might think to adapt a sun-inspired home to your climate.  Read our response to her question in FAQ’s under the Solar and Energy section.

This Summer Solstice E-newsletter includes:

  • A summary of services that come with Sun Plans
  • The featured home, Chapel Ridge
  • Budgeting for a Sun Plan
  • “We’ve moved in!” Comments from new Sun Plans owners
  • A note about working with our CAD Files
  • New Sun Plans added to our website
  • Summer Specials: Free PDF’s to make unlimited copies and blueprints
  • Message from the architect – “A Leap of Faith”

We hope that you enjoy our long newsletter full of information as much as you do these long summer days full of sunlight.


When you Select-A-SunPlan, Adapt-A-SunPlan or Create-A-SunPlan, did you know that you can receive much more than the word “plan” implies? The amount and type of service varies with each type of plan product and is tailored to fit your concerns.

In addition to the printed plans or electronic PDF files, you can receive assistance directly from the architect.

Study Plan – In addition to the Study Plan, receive The Sun-Inspired House (256 pages) which is full of information about general sun-inspired construction and answers to questions that others have asked us over the years. Receive email clarifications from the architect regarding information presented in the book and how it relates to the the Study Plan you are considering.

Review Set – In addition to the Study Plan and Review Set, receive answers from our architect to questions that you have about the plan. Also included are general comments on ideas that you may have about possible changes.

Construction Prints – In addition to the large drawings, receive Custom Energy Specs prepared by our architect who designed the home. The specs are based on the combination of the climate where the house will be constructed AND the particulars of each Sun Plan since each design is different. Our architect presents tailored options for the energy features based on your stated energy goals whether Energy Star, Passiv Haus standards, Net-Zero Energy or anywhere in-between. She also provides clarifications with your builder before and during construction regarding the Plans and Specs.

CAD Files – In addition to the CAD Files, associated documents and Custom Energy Specs, you can receive consulting between our architect and your design professional making the changes regarding the energy implications of the proposed changes that you have requested.

(As with any professional service and well-run business, the amount of consulting may be limited and relates to the price of the product purchased.)

Read more about the various types of drawings available and download examples

“The energy rater gave a solid ‘wow’ to the results of the blower door test!”

Steve and Peggy recently completed their 2464 s.f. sun-inspired home, Chapel Ridge.  They were very pleased with the process of Creating-A-SunPlan.

“We consider you a friend and it was such a great experience working with you as our architect – you were so patient trying to understand what I wanted and working with me and Steve to get the design we have now,” said Peggy in a recent email to our architect.

The homeowners were equally pleased with their builders, Kevin Murphy and Vernon Little, Anchorage Builders, NC. Vernon also enjoyed the process,

“It has been a rewarding project full of great stories and should be a wonderful, comfortable and energy efficient home for them….The energy rater gave a solid ‘wow’ to the results of the blower door test!”

(Sun Plans recommends blower door testing during and after construction as the primary method of verifying the tightness of a home in order to keep in the heat in winter and keep out the heat and humidity in summer. Air infiltration alone accounts for a much larger part of the heat gain and heat loss than most people realize. Energy transferred through cracks can even be higher than the amount of heat lost or gain through the insulation.  Energy Star certification requires blower door testing.)

Vernon also gave us a rundown of the house built in IECC 2006 Climate Zone 4: (See more about climate zones further in the email.  Recommendations may vary for other climate zones, different plans and for other type of auxilliary heating equipment.)

“The basics: Raised slab foundation. R10 insulation underslab and R7 at slab edge. Radiant floor heat – 4 zone. 2×6 walls, Spray foam insulation – full envelope, 16 seer heat pumps, variable speed, fresh air, extra returns, solar hot water and hot water circulation loop, traditional hardcoat stucco siding, Marvin casements w/ integral alum cladding, stone veneer foundation, quoins, 6″ rain gutters (piped to cistern to feed irrigation) pre-plumbed for PV on garage, stone porches, patio, and front walk, true timber frame interior and porch details, cherry trim and int. doors, tile and Ash flooring throughout, custom ash, walnut, and cherry stair case, custom built-ins, granite tops, (future) hickory mantle from site milled tree. No or low voc paints and locally made finish for exposed wood work. (Earthpaint)”

An excerpt from the architect:
After finally finding a subdivision that allowed them to build a home less than 2500 s.f., Peggy and Steve (retired) drove across several states to meet with me in our office to start the design process.  (This is not necessary with our internet-based process, but an option for those who prefer to do so.) After spending hours reviewing all their requirements (both in the questionnaire that they had previously sent in and hearing more about the details) and looking at photos of homes they like, Peggy hesitantly pulled out a photo of a home with a charming cottage-like character and told me something along the lines of “this is the style that I really like but I guess I can’t have that look and have a passive solar home”.  It had never dawned on me that the homes found on our web site might limit the ideas that others believe could be incorporated into their own home.  Needless to say, it was a major turning point in the project.
Read more reviews from Sun Plans’ Create-A-SunPlan clients

Some of our clients have shared stories of construction and joy at their almost completed or just-moved-in sun-inspired homes and we’ve decided to share those stories with you!

Note: The pictures featured below during construction may not be found on the website.  Check back periodically to see if we have received any photos of the completed homes.

Please scroll below to view comments from home owners.

Kerry and Cheryl are almost finished with their sun-inspired home and shared details of their cozy home with us. Last weekend the said the outside temperature was 96 degrees. and the inside was 68 degrees. This past weekend had outside temperatures of 27 degrees (it snowed above timberline) and inside was 60 degrees. “We lit a small fire in the Hearthstone and really enjoyed how it heated the place right back to 68 degrees in about three hours.” The couple live in the cold-climate IECC Climate Zone 6 with no air conditioning.

We adapted the Northern Lights 4 for them. Changes included exterior wall customized for their particular ICF block, heavy timbers added to exterior porches and great room ceiling as well as miscellaneous changes. Today they just let us know that they moved in:

“We get great comments on the layout, the windows, the roof line, the northern New Mexico look, and the timbers inside and out.  The east porch is a favorite of everybody that has come by so far.  Actually the garage apron on the west side too…. it’s warm there when the suns sets and you get quite a view of the stars.”

View the new Northern Lights 4 drawings
(or scroll below for a summary introduction to it)

Joan and John have been enjoying their reversed Roseburg Cottage 7 in the moderate Climate Zone 4.

Their home was built with the garage doors moved to the back of the home while the second floor was altered to have an upstairs loft and deck (atop a screened porch) like the Roseburg Cottage 3. Their local design professional made the changes from our CAD Files.

“The southern rooms are wonderfully bright during these winter months. I am eager to see these rooms in the summer. Thanks for your wonderful plans. The plans, coupled with our fantastic location, have created a perfect home.”

It looks like the couple have gotten their wish to see their home in the summer as spring months are falling behind us!

View Roseburg Cottage 7 drawings

Janet and Bill’s home has been constructed in the central US in IECC 2006 Climate Zone 3. It was designed through our Create-A-SunPlan services and is one of the newer plans added to our web site.

“It was almost 90 degrees and a 20mpg wind yesterday and it was 71 degrees inside the house yesterday afternoon – and the HVAC is not even ON yet!!! Bill was telling someone we will have to run the heater in the summer!” exclaimed Janet in an email to our architect. We are happy the couple is overjoyed with their sun-inspired home!

To achieve proper sizing of the heat pump, they took advantage of our HVAC consulting service and found that they were able to substantially downsize the heating and cooling equipment that their subcontractor first proposed.

That sums up the goal of the many types of consulting and design services from Sun Plans:

To save you money during construction or later with operating costs when helping you to choose a design, to make changes to a plan or to create a new design.  For any given fee that you pay us related to energy and construction cost savings, you can expect later savings of anywhere from double our fee to tens of thousands of dollars. Plus you still get the wonderful light-filled spaces and comfortable interiors of Sun Plans.

Review the various Sun Plans Consulting Services

View the new Dream Horse design
(or scroll below for a summary introduction to it)

Visiting Henry and Terrie’s house this weekend was a special treat!  They took time out from unpacking boxes to give a tour and point out why they were glad that we had made certain changes for them from the original Garden Atrium floor plan.  Terrie’s favorite spots are the south corner sun room (and a sitting in her favorite chair it’s easy to see why) and the separate walk-in work-pantry that is an extension of the kitchen.  Henry proudly explained and showed off the details of his zoned geo-thermal heat pump, on demand water heaters and the sprayed foam insulation.

View the drawings and 3D images of the Longleaf Atrium

Some have been concerned about purchasing our CAD Files and having someone else make changes to the Sun Plans. While you do want to take care in selecting another design professional as you would with any professional, we have many happy reports for our customers.  The proud owners of our Sun Dance Cottage CAD Files have enjoyed the process of making changes to the plan  with their local design professional AND they have shared some of the results. While it’s impossible for us to notice all the changes to the plans if we do not perform the work, our architect is happy to take a look at the proposed ideas to let you know what she thinks and this is best done prior to beginning the changes.
“The biggest change was probably to incorporate what was an exterior storage on the north side into the building envelope in order to: a) create a mechanical room; and b) provide more kitchen area. We also made some changes in the rear entry and master en suite layout. But I think overall we’ve tried to remain true to the spirit of your original design.”

One of the main reasons for choosing a local design professional over Sun Plans to make changes from our CAD Files would be if you needed the changes performed quicker than the Sun Plans’ schedule would allow.

Click here to learn more about our CAD Files.

(New plans can also be seen on our Select-A-SunPlan list with the “NEW” designation)

French Cowgirl 2
First Floor 1320 s.f.
Tower 180 s.f.
Total 1500 s.f.
Daylight Basement 1320 s.f.
Porches 388 s.f.
Garage 720 s.f.
Width 60’
Depth 64’
12% South Glass

The small footprint French Cowgirl 2 was adapted for our Canadian clients in a cold climate. Michael and Corrine wanted to have thicker exterior walls and slightly larger rooms. The extra thermal mass in the ICF (insulated concrete form) walls keeps the home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Nine foot ceilings allow for more south glass. Custom built-ins including the seating/sleeping areas for the fun tower (with 360º views) are space saving strategies that make this small home feel large. Quantity of square footage is traded for quality of square footage.

Cozy Solstice

First Floor 1684 s.f.
Second Floor 741 s.f.
Total 2425 s.f.
Garage 853 s.f.
Porches 32 s.f.
Width 78’
9% South Glass

The Cozy Solstice is partially earth-bermed with part of the first floor nestled snuggly into land that gently rises to the north. The narrower width reduces the cost of construction and operation with lower energy bills. The exterior is a blend of stone which creates the illusion of truly blending with the earth, but with smooth finish accents on the parts not touching the ground. The metal roof completes the fire-resistant exterior, but as with all Sun Plans, the exterior materials can easily be changed. We reduced the Solstice 2 plan for Darren and Cathy (cold climate) by making the house much narrower and to save about $30,000 in construction costs.

Dream Horse
First Floor 3184 s.f.
Porches 736 s.f.
Garage 896 s.f.
Opt. Carport 672 s.f.
Opt. Basement 546 s.f.
Width 84’ + Carport
Depth 82’
9% South Glass

The Dream Horse was born when Janet and Bill, a horse-loving couple, decided to create their dream home in a moderate climate. Doors and windows have been carefully placed to take advantage of the winter sun, balanced daylight and other views. The east-facing front porch and breakfast nook capture sunrises while the private master patio and bath capture the sunsets. Creating a central courtyard allows for more south glass than would normally be possible in larger one-story plans that can have dark inner spaces if they are not sun-inspired. The north wing of the home can be closed off for privacy or energy-savings.

Islander 9

First Floor 1954 s.f.
Unfinished Basement 1740 s.f.
Porches 880 s.f.
Garage 842 s.f.
Width 74’
Depth 74’
10% South Glass

The Islander 9 boasts the ample east and west porches of many of the other Islanders, but this one has the wrap continue around to the north for those who desire extra outdoor living space or just like the look of the full wrap porch. With the front door tucked into the northeast corner, the house is inviting with drives from both the north and west. Extra windows to the east capture the rising sun.  We added the basement for our client John who lives in an area where building without a basement is almost unheard.  There can be concerns that resale value can be affected. He desired a large workshop below though too.  (Many areas are still unaware of the cost and energy benefits of building on a concrete slab foundation especially for homes that have  large garage or large attic to store items that do not need to take up valuable heated or cooled spaces.)

Northern Lights 4

First Floor 2447 s.f.
Porches543 s.f.
Garage 890 s.f.
Width 73’
Depth 73’
8% South Glass

Kerry and Cheryl wanted a home that blended with their rugged, cold climate mountains. Northern Lights 4 is an updated, rustic, high mass version of the original Northern Lights Sun Plan with its long-time proven energy performance. Timber columns, a front porch timber truss and wood lintels add western touches. Stacked stone blends the home to the land while the simple and practical stucco–type coating is a natural and inexpensive siding for the ICF walls behind. The wrap-around front porch on the cool northeast side works especially well for those who enjoy shady summer evenings outside, but reversing the home would be recommended for those who preferred sunset viewing.

Click here to view our list of Sun Plans, including the NEW ones above!

These specials will last for two months – until August 22, 2010.

Click here to view the Atrium Breeze 3Buy 1 Get 1 Free!

For the next two months, buy one of our sun-inspired Study Plans or Review Sets and get another of equal or lesser value for free!

Our Reasoning: Many times, people narrow their choices down to two plans. For a limited time, we have decided to make it easier to study both plans for one price!

How to take advantage of this deal: When you order one Study Plan or Review Set, respond to the automated email with the second plan you would like to receive free of charge!

Click here to view the Sun Dance 7Upgrade to PDFs….for free!

For the next two months, upgrade your new orders of Study Plans, Review Sets or Construction Prints to PDFs for free!

Our Reasoning: Receiving orders in PDF format allows for fast delivery as well as unlimited printing of your purchased plan!

How to take advantage of this deal: When you choose a plan in our Secure Online Store, click the link in the header that says ‘Upgrade to PDF’ and choose the appropriate drawing type – Study Plan, Review Set or Construction Prints – then add it to your basket along with the house plan of your choice. Note that the price of the PDF Upgrade will show as “0”.

Click here to see all Saving and Specials!

Taking the first steps towards constructing a new home (which may be one of the largest and most costly endeavors of a life-time) can be hard.  It’s only natural to be reluctant to make a commitment to something full of unknowns and that costs a lot of money.

I know because I’ve seen this reluctance with home owners during over 20 years of designing passive solar homes. But it is because of this experience combined with my passion for creating comfortable sun-inspired that I ask you to take “a leap of faith” with creating a Sun Plan and to trust that I truly do have your best interests at heart.  Not only does the architectural professional code of ethics require me to do so, but I have an extreme desire to please and not disappoint those who have trusted me with the creation of their home.

Although I try to run Sun Plans as a successful business and to provide the absolute best value for you by keeping our design fees to no more than half of what you would pay a realtor if you were purchasing an existing home instead, the ultimate reward is not in terms of money. This past weekend I was reminded of that.  While attending an out of town baseball game for our son, we had the fortunate event of being near sun-inspired home owners Henry, Terrie and (and their dog Truman) who had just moved in. Sitting with them in their sunny living room, looking through layers of light-filled spaces and seeing the content on their faces was priceless.

And since we have never received a complaint about our custom services, but have received many compliments about the design process and the finished home, we’d like to encourage you to take “a leap of faith” to begin the sun-inspired process of creating a new design if you have more than 6 months prior to starting construction.  I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Read reviews from Create-A-SunPlan clients
Read reviews from Adapt-A-SunPlan clients

We welcome the opportunity to assist you with the first steps towards living in a new sun-inspired home – the planning process! If you find that our services currently listed do not fit your needs, feel free to get in touch with us through our Contact Us.  As always, we continuously modify our services based on the feedback of our past and future home owners.

As saddened as we are by the Gulf Oil Spill, we are equally optimistic that it will bring a heightened awareness of our dependence on fossil fuels.  Living in a right-sized sun-inspired home can be one step to passive survivability (see footnote) in the wake of a a natural or man-made disaster even though we continue to be optimistic and hope for a more responsible future.

Sun Plans Inc.
Debra Coleman, Architect, AIA and the Sun Plans Team (including some proof-reading assistance from my 12 year old son who likes recognition!)
Sun-Inspired Design: the gold lining of green building

“Passive Survivability” applies to all locations an is best described by Alex Wilson in this article.

July 2018
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