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Note: Design Forward LLC is proud to have served the Southern California area designing straw bale homes for over 15 years. However, we have moved on to other business ventures and have closed the business as of January 2017. We will not taking any new projects or responding to phone and email requests. This website will be left up as an archive of data for straw bale and design. You may find that some of the links are broken or out of date, but we will not be updating this site any longer. Thank you!
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March 2003
Design Forward
 Sustainable Concepts . Design Forward Newsletter 
March 2003 
. . . . . . . . .

Welcome to the March 2003 newsletter for Design Forward. Please take some time to enjoy this month's features.

Quote of the Month: "Simply by not owning three medium-sized castles in Tuscany I have saved enough money in the last forty years on insurance premiums alone to buy a medium-sized castle in Tuscany." - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

in this issue
  • Newton Residence
  • The Basics of Passive Solar
  • Tankless Water Heaters
  • Submit a Project
  • Feedback

  • The Basics of Passive Solar
    The basis of Passive Solar Design is to use the natural climate and the sun to heat and cool your home. Some of the basic design criteria for plan layout are use an open floor plan while keeping the long axis on the east- west alignment. The south facing windows should be sized to take in the most light during the winter, but minimal light in the summer. This is usually accomplished with the help of shading the summer sun with overhangs.

    One the simplest passive solar heating method is direct solar gain or thermal mass. A direct solar gain system includes south-facing windows and a large mass, usually composed of masonry or concrete, placed within the space (this can be your floor) to receive the most direct sunlight in cold weather. During the winter weather, the thermal mass absorbs the heat of the sun during the day and radiates the heat back into the room during the night. In the summer months, when the direct sunlight will not be coming into the room, the thermal mass will absorb only the warm air inside. The result is the air is cooled in warm seasons and heated in cold seasons.

    The most notable passive solar cooling method is ventilation. The strategic placement of operable windows and the use of a thermal chimney can noticeable change the temperature. For example, opening clerestory windows while also opening lower windows on the opposite side of the room will allow collected heat to escape. The process of opening an upper window will create a chimney effect, drawing out hot air from the high points and pulling in fresh air from lower areas, therefore cooling the room.

    For more information on Passive Solar visit this month's Featured Links found in 'Quick Links'. Article in full Design Forward. Image Commonwealth of Australia. References: http://www.greenbuilder.com, http://www.repp.org

    Passive Solar Guidelines... »

    Tankless Water Heaters
    Normally the use of tankless water heaters is not efficient. However, our friends at S.E.T.S. with the help of NASA (yes, that NASA) have created a whole house system that is 50% more efficient than standard water heater systems. The system takes up less space and creates an endless supply of hot water.

    It should be mentioned, however, that these systems do not created the HOT water that you may be use to from your home faucet. These systems are designed to heat the water only to a reasonable temperature for bathing. Get use to never turning your cold water faucet on when you get into the shower.

    These water heaters are listed and/or certified by UL, CEC (California Energy Commission) and HUD. Take a little time and check out the systems for yourself.

    30% off Takagi Gas Tankless Water Heaters for a limited time only! »

    Submit a Project
    Design Forward works toward promoting Sustainable Design. If you know of a project that should be featured, please send an email to studio@designforward.net.
    If you have any feedback concerning this publication, please feel free to send an email or use the form on the website.

    If you would like to submit a fun and/or entertaining quote about architecture, building, or such, please use the contact form.

    Contact Form... »

    Newton Residence
    Nobody would argue that the Newtons built their house for anyone but themselves. Disregard for normal societal amenities that are common by today's standards produce an efficiently planned design. This home was built with only one bathroom and one bedroom (why would a couple need more?) and the small floor plan also discounts the need for a separate dining room. The house is built with exactly what is needed - nothing more, nothing less. Built in Brisbane, Australia, this Straw Bale house is designed to maintain a temperature between 17-26 centigrade (62-78 F) throughout the year. The design is carried through two pods. The first pod is comprised of the private area with the bedroom and bath, while the second pod is the public section consisting of the living room, kitchen and cellar, giving way to a home office and a garage. The two pods are elegantly connected with a courtyard. The footprint of the house, both being minimal and built up on posts decreases the disturbance to the earth below. The careful planning of the floor plan is just an indication to the in depth thought given to the efficient building materials and applications.

    The owners spent a year researching sustainable design concepts before starting on the project. Their objective was to have a house which had minimal impact on the environment both during construction and throughout its lifetime. The owner, Chris Newton states, "I feel it is critical that designers acknowledge how the building and occupants will continue to impact their environment after construction is complete." With this in mind, the building carefully mixes the basic sustainable concepts and materials widely used today, with some more remarkable 'green' elements: straw bale walls, active & passive solar, thermal mass (mud brick wall), recycled windows and doors, recycled timbers, earthen floor, recycled grey water, dry composting toilet, and water harvesting.

    The owners were not only involved as owner/builders and scholars of sustainable concepts, but the house was designed in part by one its owners, Colin Newton (colinn@millsengineers.com.au), a structural engineer at Mills Engineering, Brisbane Australia. This home is a great example of what one couple's personal research and persistence achieved. Chris Newton, proudly states, "Family and friends who doubted that we would live in a 'normal house' are now telling us what a special place we have."

    For more information on please visits the Newton's website. Article in full Design Forward

    Newton Residence....

    . Quick Links...

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    Last Month's Newsletter

    Featured Link - Sun Chart Info

    Featured Link - Simple Solar Solutions

    Featured Link - Renewable Energy Policy Project

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    Revised December 12, 2003