Using Nature to Create Sustainable House: Gunderson-Rogers Residence

Wylie Architecture Planning Interior Design, Inc., Carole Wylie – Architect

The Wright Construction Company, Inc., Steve Wright – Builder

The Gunderson-Rogers Residence is designed to eliminate the need for air conditioning by using wind and water to naturally cool the house. The front of the house has a Zen-like approach with a reflecting pond and drought tolerant landscaping. The back of the home has a panoramic view of the valley and mountains beyond.

The reflecting pond is only 18” deep to mitigate the requirement for a perimeter fence. The house is designed to naturally cool without the need for air conditioning. It is situated in an east/westerly direction. The breeze blows across the pond, cools, then flows front to rear through the house, while warmer air escapes through the rear clerestory windows. All the windows along the bedroom wing, at the side of the pond, open in the same direction to catch the breeze and keep it raveling throughout the house. The bedrooms along that hallway have Asian style sliding doors with opaque glass to let in the light, but maintain privacy when closed. The bedroom doors are in line with the windows to allow a view of the pond and to capture the cooled air, directing it through the bedrooms and out windows on the opposite wall. The great room incorporates a very large industrial grade ceiling fan (Big Ass Fan Co.) to further cool the house, if needed, although the owners have found that the house stays comfortable without the fan even in the hot Ramona summer months.

The owners, who for many years lived in the area, researched the sun position and wind activity on the site, in order to help design a naturally air-conditioned residence.

Wylie and Wright found the house easy to design and build because the owners were knowledgeable and very willing to pursue an energy efficient project. The project builder, Steve Wright said, “I was actually surprised that it worked the way they intended!”

“The concept of using nature in an energy efficient way is not new”, said Wylie. For example, in hot, dry climates, adobe houses were built with thick, dense walls to keep them cool during the day and then radiate heat into the interior for night. Hawaiian houses in warm, humid climates were built with thin wall construction, many window openings and a raised foundation with space for air to flow under and through the structure, for natural cooling.