Green Tour: Chris and Nyla's Passive Solar Cottage

Green Tour: Chris and Nyla's Passive Solar Cottage

Stephanie Kinnear
Jul 16, 2007

Name: Chris and Nyla
Location: Berkeley, Ca
Occupation: Scientist and educator, respectively
Size/Type: 510 sq. ft. cottage
Years lived in: 8 (roughly half-time occupancy)
Average Gas/Electric Bill: $6 gas/$6 electric

The line between where the inside of Chris and Nyla Marnay's cottage ends and the outside begins is blurred by large windows, sunlight, a cool breeze, and French doors opened wide. The couple's home was painstakingly designed so that the sun provides most of their light and heat, strategically placed overhangs and windows provide their cooling, and highly-insulating concrete walls keep temperatures stable.

, powered by a super-efficient hot water heater makes the place cozy in the winter, and an isolated slab under the cottage keeps warmth from escaping to the patio.The cottage, which they had built at the back of their property after deciding to rent out the larger front house, is a study in efficiency -- just big enough for Chris, Nyla, and their dog, Bettie -- nothing wasted, not even a square-foot.

Our Style: Passive solar, quarter circle, with mixed rough-face block and framing.

The inspiration for our home: Low maintenance, low energy, small, and cozy.

Favorite Element: The easy access to the outside, the light, and the view.

Biggest Challenge: No room to entertain or accommodate guests.

Friends Say About Our Home: It's an architectural marvel.

Biggest Embarrassment: Dog hair � and dirty windows (there are a lot of them to clean)!

Favorite Green Element: Passive space conditioning and our clothesline!

Proudest DIY: We worked with the architect to develop the design, and he later converted to green construction.

Biggest Indulgence: We accepted a very high cost-per-square-foot to achieve this kind of efficiency and an attractive design.

Best advice you'd give to anyone trying to green their home:

  • Keep it a small and efficient, but attractive space to occupy.
  • Throw away the stuff you don't really need or store it in an unconditioned space.
  • Take advantage of passive opportunities, e.g. solar gain.
  • Make the space feel bigger by generous views and other connections to the outdoors � patios, etc.
  • A few simple behavioral changes make a big difference, for example, wash your clothes in cold water and dry them on a clothesline.
  • Choose the most efficient appliances, e.g. CFLs.

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