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This striking high desert home, designed by Taos, NM’s Edge Architects, is uniquely suited for the widely fluctuating climate conditions of its wild desert  location. The home is designed to be completely off-grid and self-sufficient. For cooling and heating purposes, the home’s north, east and west walls consist of 24 inch thick adobe wrapped in straw bales.

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Photovoltaic panels provide all electricity for lights, computers, television, water pumps, washing machine, etc. The home’s solar panel array is situated for maximum solar exposure while maintaining its proximity to the utility room, where a bank of batteries stores the electricity, and an inverter converts the 24 volt DC electricity to conventional 110-volt AC power.

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All the residence’s roofs slope to a single location so that rain water can be captured and stored in two 1,700 gallon cisterns buried on the north side of the house. The only reliance on an outside source of power is a propane tank, which provides fuel for the range and hot water heater.

The thickness and composition of the walls make them slow to heat up during the day, keeping interior temperatures fairly comfortable and constant while exterior temperatures fluctuate wildly. Temperatures can reach 90 degrees during the day (with higher temperatures recorded on west facing walls) dropping to the 50s at night. In the afternoon, the owners can open the skylight at the top of the circular stairway/cooling tower to quickly exhaust any hot air that has built up in the house. Once the sun goes down, the cooling cycle begins again and the residents can open windows at night to additionally cool down the house.

On the cold side — winter temperatures can plummet to 17 degrees below zero at night followed by sunny days in the 20s. During the day the sun, low in the sky, is allowed to reach deep into the house, heating the concrete floor and adobe walls. The walls store the heat until the house begins to cool down in the evening as exterior temps drop. The owners close insulating shades to hold heat in and create additional heat via a woodstove.

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Green building details:

  • A rainwater roof catchment system provides all domestic water supply, including drinking water
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  • A greywater re-use systems allows waste water to be channeled to outdoor planters
  • An energy-saving on-demand heater provides hot water
  • Cellulose roof insulation
  • Energy efficient appliances throughout
  • Flooring in the upstairs office is bamboo
  • Douglas Fir beams and columns used both in interior roof framing and exterior portals were locally harvested
  • Sensors were placed in the walls during construction so we were able to track the temperature changes within the walls throughout a complete cycle of seasons
  • Concrete countertops contain recycled glass aggregate
  • Walls are hand-troweled, custom plasters that utilize chopped straw and mica dust to reduce cracking

related: more eco-friendly architecture on The Alternative Consumer