Tonalacalli, the House of Sun and Water

Austin’s House of Sun and Water concentrated on all aspects of sustainable design and construction.  However, the owners and architects were also determined to passive sustainability and passive survivability.  In setting their goals, the central theme to every design element was to allow the residence to endure periods where no outside power, water of food was available from outside sources.At the core of the passive heating and cooling system is the Venturi effect-assisted passive thermal stack ventilative cooling systems used in the house and in the greenhouse-workshop attachment.  The Venturi system supports the home’s primary cooling/heating system, which is the home’s design to utilize the maximum thermal capacity by storing the heating and cooling elements in the exterior walls and foundation.  An electric powered heating and cooling system is the system of last resort.Complimentary passive sustainability elements are the strategically placed shading porches, the window treatments and locations, which capitalize on cross ventilation and the well-calculated roof overhangs.All the home’s water supply for both the home and the ample gardens is provided by the rainwater harvesting systems.  The owners intend to grow their own vegetables and fruits from a kitchen garden and from various fruit trees distributed around the property.  In designing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum level certified home, the owners found that passive sustainability does not happen by chance.  Architects and owners need to consider every passive source and add these features to the design.When the U.S. Green Building Council designed the LEED rating and certification program, the council’s focus was on commercial development and commercial construction.  American buildings consume more energy than most nations of the world.  As the program gained acceptance, the USGBC began to design certification programs for other green construction areas.As Austin was the first American city to adopt LEED standards, it is fitting that the city has aggressively pursued LEED initiatives.  The country’s first platinum level certified Ronald McDonald house and now the first platinum certified residence in the state are both well situated in Austin.  Perhaps, this is one reason real estate values in the city are stable.

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