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Sunday, 05 May 2013 19:37

The Shea-Cloudt House (1979-80)

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The Cloudt family owned a piece of rural land above the Napa Valley in California. They wanted to move there from the house in Sausalito with their two children and John's sister-in-law. They were keen to have a passive solar house that fitted with the vernacular style of the region - lots of timber, stone, water features etc. in keeping with the nearby wineries.

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Typical Napa Wineries

The House was set along the southern edge of a live-oak forest, in a small clearing sloping gradually to the South. There were two small creeks back in the forest  that converged towards the bottom end of the clearing. Access was through the forest and across one of these streams. Precise location was determined by optimal access to the winter sun, and proximity to the forest for summer cooling.


Solar Rose, Cloudt Site

Based loosely on the same principles as the ancient Hisatsinom  ruin of Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon in Arizona, the house is organised around a semi-circular courtyard, capturing the winter sun thoughout the day and maximising the building's insolation. This maximisation is rendered even more effective by the inclusion of a pool that focuses and reflects the low rays of the winter sun deep inton the living and sleeping spaces.


Ground Floor Plan

South-facing walls are heavily glazed, while the North walls have few and small windows - increasing winter heating and reducing heat-loss. The clerestory windows allow sun to penetrate to the very back, masonry walls, of the building which then act as a heat-storage medium - releasing their stored heat back into the spaces during the cooler evening and night time.


Aerial Perspective from the South-East

The Winter heating mode is enhanced by:

  1. A reflective pool that reflects radiant heat into the interior of the building
  2. A woodburning stove that delivers warm, ducted air to the bedrooms 
  3. Heavy masonry construction that stores and re-radiates its heat when needed
  4. A system for collecting exceess heat in the apex and returning it to rock-heat-starage unit buried beneath the house
  5. Using pre-heated air (at 56 deg. F.) collected from earth tubes buried in the forest floor.


Winter Bedroom Direct Gain Heating



Winter cupola-chimney effect and earth-tube heating

During the Summer months, this process is reversed. The carefully-designed roof overhangs block the overhead sun and prevent its penetration into the interior. At the same time, the courtyard pool  and fountain provides a powerful form of evaporative cooling. As the water in the pond changes state from liquid to vapour (gas) it requires massive amounts of heat to complete the process - taking this heat from the surrounding air and maintaining a balanced, cool air temperature around the pool.


Summer Cooling

This is supplemented by three natural cooling systems:

  1. The natural cross-ventilation created by the rising warm air of the courtyard being replaced by ther cool air of the surrounding forest - drawn through the building by natural convection.
  2. The Cupola provides a chimney effect - collecting the warm interior air and ventilating it high into the prevailing forest breezes.
  3. This is supplemented by the use of the same earth tubes - buried pipes that lead into the forest floor, drawing cool (56 deg, F.) air in to fill the low-pressure system left by the rising and vented warm air 


Summer cupola-chimney effect and earth-tube cooling

The entire system works on natural air-flow principles and requires very little mechanical assistance - perhap[s\ the use of a couple of small in-line fans to assist the flow of air occasionally. One of the primary design tasks was to encapsulate all of this sustainable technology into a building that didn't look "high-tech", but that had the look and feel of a timeless, crafted home in the Arts and Crafts style that satisfied the client's romantic tendencies and the demands of a wine-country vernacular. The result was a deliberately playful and whimsical reference to French chateaux with a more serious underlying theme of environmental and energy conservation. Energy calculations suggested that the building wouild perform well - maintaining a cool interior in the 100 deg. F. Napa summers and a warm 68 degree F. internal temperature in the 30-40 degree F. Napa winters.


Courtyard view from the South


Aerial View from the North West

 Despite the fact that all planning and building permits were obtained and building cost estimates had come in at the expected and agreeable price, the project was neverv realised. The extended Cloudt/Shea family separated before construction began and the project was shelved.


Read 1398 times Last modified on Thursday, 11 July 2013 23:02

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