The number one priority of the Solar Umbrella House, initially built for the principals, Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa and their child, was sustainability. The goal of the construction of a passive solar house was to aid responsible living in the 21st century. Solar Umbrella House was inspired by an umbrella house designed by Paul Rudolph back in 1953. Little did they know that the Solar Umbrella House would earn a range of prestigious awards, including the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project, 2006, AIA National Honor Award, 2007, Record House Award, 2005, AIA California Council Award, 2005, and AIA Los Angeles Decade Award, 2006.
The History of A Passive Solar House
Initially built in the 1920s, and renovated in the 1930s, the current owners decided to renovate some sections of the home and add additional sections, ultimately doubling it in size. The objective was to increase the sustainability of the structure and to add a solar umbrella, which consists of PV panels, which now provide nearly 100% of the home’s energy needs making entirely a passive solar house.
- The PV panels act as shading, thus reducing the home’s energy requirements for cooling.
- Cross ventilation is provided by the structure of the home.
- Three solar panels assist with water heating, and for the swimming pool.
- Heat is released by a heating system through the floor’s concrete, heating the house efficiently.
- The structure of the house lets in significant amounts of natural daylight, thus eliminating the need for artificial light during the sunny days.
With a contemporary reinvention of the solar canopy, this passive solar house building strategy offers thermal protection in extreme climates. Photovoltaic panels provide all the energy requirements of the home. Additionally, the home has solar hydronic heating panels and an open, airy design that was constructed using environmentally friendly materials. Unconventional materials are used for the finishes, with cost-effective and eco-friendly building materials that are generally hidden from view, being repositioned as attractive and unusual design elements.
- Fifty percent fly ash concrete, recycled mild steel and other recycled materials were used in the renovation and builders recycled approximately 85% of the waste resulting from the construction.
- The architects were conscious of waste as well, and carefully considered options that would reduce the home’s impact on the environment:
- Gravel allows water to seep into the ground, reducing the water runoff. The home’s water retention system collects 80% of the water that is not absorbed into the ground into a basin, preventing runoff.
- Energy efficient appliances complete the Solar Umbrella House by reducing electricity use. Lighting systems are implemented to fulfill this quest.
As a result of the holistic design of the Solar Umbrella House, the home consumes only half the gas that it did before doubling in size.
The Solar Umbrella House is a perfect example of how nearly every home not just a passive solar house can be adjusted to become more energy efficient and reduce its impact on the environment.