Located at the base of a large hill, the 6,445-square-foot Spring Ranch overlooks eastward rural views along the San Andreas Fault. Strategically placed to optimize passive solar conditions, the house is anchored by three long, arcing rammed earth walls that follow the contours of the landscape. Built from 533 tons of local soil, the rammed earth walls are complemented by the building’s materials palette which comprises FSC-certified and reclaimed timber, concrete with recycled fly ash content, glass, stone, and steel.
In addition to passive solar design, Spring Ranch’s use of drought-tolerant native plant landscape design—created by Bernard Trainor + Associates—water efficiency, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainably harvested materials helped the home achieve LEED Gold certification. The dwelling’s impact on the landscape is minimal; 98% of the site is permeable and the run-off from the impermeable surfaces is collected in retention areas. Low-flow fixtures in the home also contribute to water savings.
To minimize energy needs, the Spring Ranch features southeast glazing with .3 U-factor and a .27 Solar Heat Gain Coefficient that optimize passive solar gain with minimal exposure to harmful UV rays. The rammed earth walls and exposed concrete flooring absorb heat from the sun during the day and slowly release it at night. On hot days, the home is cooled with extensive cross ventilation and ceiling fans, as well as roof overhangs and external solar shades. The placement of deciduous trees and planted shade trellis on the site’s south side also help reduce solar heat gain.
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Site-generated geothermal energy powers the home’s radiant heating and cooling system, while an integrated photovoltaic system and solar thermal system generate enough energy to allow the home to meet net-zero energy standards. “Private suites and a bunk-room offer lodging options for guests and the owner’s grown children and grandchildren, while large communal gathering and cooking spaces bring everyone together,” write the architects.
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