Harnessing Night Air For Comfortable Days—Building Manual, 1986

This 'thermosiphon' design uses towers and windows for creating cross breezes

ENERGY-SAVING FEATURES

• Thermosiphon-convection design with carefully placed windows on the north elevation and vented towers for channeling sum­mer breezes

• Extra-thick insulation throughout the house—12" in the roof, 6" in the walls

• Insulating board under the aluminum siding and a plastic sealer used under the Sheetrock for added insulation

• Double-pane glazing weld­ed together for virtually airtight windows

• Canvas awnings and net­ting over south entrance to shield from summer sun

• An open plan with few dividing walls for efficient warm and cool air distribu­tion

• Sharply angled ceilings to deflect air conditioning in summer and heat in winter to the floors below

• Skylights over the bridge area for passive solar gain in winter
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In Redding, Calif., summer days are dry and hot—often 90°F. or more—and nights are cool and breezy. Such a climate is ideal for the natural cooling techniques employed by architect Ronald Beyer in the house shown here, which he designed for himself and his family. Influenced by the shapes of California barns, Beyer used a shed-type roof with no overhang for a modern sculptured effect. Combined with typical New England elements, such as shiplap siding in weathered blue with white trim, the result is a contemporary-style house with hints of traditional northeastern architecture. Strategically placed windows and two vent "towers" that resemble chimneys form the basis of the cooling system, which utilizes a thermosiphon-convection process. Strong cross breezes sweep cool night air through both halves of the house, while warm air rises and escapes through the two towers, keeping the house naturally comfortable until noon. The north-facing wing is connected to the south wing on the middle level by a passageway that receives constant sun from a row of windows and three adjacent skylights over the entry, above. To harmonize with neighboring structures, Beyer kept the house relatively small (1,500 sq. ft.); but by using narrow, 4" aluminum siding panels he made it look larger than it is. The south and west elevations, opposite below, provide a clue to the three-level vertical layout found inside. Blue canvas awnings provide shade from summer sun, and black netting above the south entrance filters light flowing into the dining area. Further protection from heat and cool-air loss includes 12" of thermal insulation in the roof and 6" in the walls.
The interior of the Beyer house is based on the idea of borrowed space: Every room opens onto or looks into another, making small spaces appear larger. For example, the living room visually extends into the dining room, opens to the kitchen, and affords a view up the stairway, opposite. Light streams into the living-dining area through numerous windows and glass doors, accentuating the sharp angles generated by the open tri-level plan. And while the design facilitates even movement of air, each room remains hidden just enough from the others to retain a sense of privacy. The visual excitement continues as the angles change with each view and from one level to the next, culminating on the upper loft-study area, which features a dramatic view of the floors below, inset opposite. Structured like an umbrella, a single pole rising from the lower level through the loft affords the only interior roof support. Partial walls frame the loft on two sides with a second view overlooking the master bedroom, right, lit by the tower above. For privacy, the master bedroom is in the north wing, and the children's rooms are in the south (see plans).

The energy system in this house centers on a thermosiphon-convection principle in which hot air rises naturally and cold air falls. To help nature along, open windows and skylights capture cooling cross breezes, and sharply angled ceilings deflect heat and cold in a design that utilizes both natural and mechanical methods to their fullest. On summer nights, fresh air enters the north-facing windows in the living room while hot air escapes through the operable skylights in the two towers, creating a natural draft system (see section). Open hallway windows produce additional currents in the south section of the house. Two gas-fired heat-cooling units—one on the lower level and one on the middle level—supplement the natural convection system. The sharply sloped ceilings deflect both heat and cold so effectively that in winter the lower unit sufficiently heats the upper level, while in summer the upper unit cools the lower levels.

COPYRIGHT House Beautiful's Building Manual—Spring-Summer 1986

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