Passive design methodology responds to local climate and site conditions to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home. By implementing passive design principles, auxiliary energy usage is dramatically reduced as temperature fluctuations are fewer and indoor air quality is improved. Casa Caldera by DUST Architects in southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valley, is a wonderful example of passive design at work and showcases the benefits of being self-sufficient in a beautiful and secluded landscape.
Exemplifying holiday living, the off-grid home responds to the challenges of being in a harsh, remote climate by taking advantage of local vernacular building techniques and materials.
Casa Caldera’s 500mm thick walls are constructed from lava-crete – a dry cement that contains lightweight red-colour volcanic rock – which acts as thermal mass. Situated 5,000 feet above sea level, you can expect freezing nights and boiling days, but the thermal mass and clever placement of windows and doors to encourage natural cross ventilation, keeps the indoor environment fairly temperate. The hue and texture of the walls also perfectly blend into the surrounding landscape.
Behind the striking rock facings of the exterior you’ll find warm timbers alongside modern, yet simple interior finishes.
The bedrooms and living area is located on either side of a zaguan – a type of hallway. Shielded on both ends by large steel doors, the zaguan serves as an outdoor living space during the day and allows for cross ventilation for passive cooling. At night, when the doors are closed, the house is transformed into a protective fortress.
As Casa Caldera is entirely off-grid, power is provided by a small solar system as well as a generator backup for cooking, water heating and refrigeration. Water is sourced from a local well while heating is provided via a wood burning stove and fireplace. Equipped with low energy LED lighting and with no need for active cooling, the house’s energy requirements are minimal.
Modscape have completed a number of off-grid homes for past clients – homes that minimise environmental impact, maximise year-round comfort, and reduce running costs by using shading, ventilation, quality glazing, orientation and high thermal insulation.
Perhaps one of our most popular off-grid homes is the modular cabin located by the Murray River in Tintaldra.
Like DUST Architects, the Modscape design team placed great emphasis on building according to the surrounding environment. The cabin recedes into the landscape, appearing as a small silhouette against the snowy mountains and camouflaged to look like one of the many farm buildings in the area. Drawing on principles of passive design and sustainability, the Tintaldra project (along with all Modscape’s off-grid homes) is centred around the natural conditions pertaining to their specific locations in order to maximise a home’s efficiency.
Want to lust over other off-grid homes? Check out our projects page for further off-grid modular examples as well as more urban projects.