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Preliminary Design

Note: This page describes the preliminary design for our new house. Since this page was created, the design has progressed to the Final stage, but the preliminary design is still described here for historic interest.  To view the final design, click on "Final Design" in the left hand menu.

Since our passive-solar/earth-covered design is somewhat unconventional, it may take a bit of 3D thinking to fully visualize how it fits into the lot.

Remember that the lot is a 2:1 rectangle with it's main axis running NE-SW. The downhill slope (and accompanying view), cuts across the lot in an almost due South direction (chosen for Northern Hemisphere solar design).

The house can be imagined to be a big pizza slice that is cut into the hill, with the point of the slice cutting deepest into the hill, and the crust of the slice being the exposed South face. Click the image for more detail.

With the exception of the lofted ceiling over the living room, and the raised Observatory over the kitchen, the house is single level, with a flat roof.  The South facing walls are almost exclusively glass with a trellis work to provide shade in summer and direct sun in winter.  The roof is landscaped to provide a combination of green roof and paved patio area.

A stone walkway leads from ground level at the South West corner of the house, up a sloped path, to the paved patio on the roof.  The rear most point of the house is actually a few feet underground.

The front-elevation and interior cross-sections below, show several of the key design elements.  Click the image for more detail.
A true perspective view of the front elevation would hide the raised loft area since the land drops off  in front of the house.  The window details still need to be refined, but will probably include swing-out awning style windows across the bottom (for summer ventilation). The Observatory above the kitchen is accessible via a Captain's Ladder.  The lowered floor defines the kitchen area below, and permits eye-level windows to be nearer to ground level (for better wildlife viewing).

This picture shows the floor plan superimposed on the landscape drawing.
The key house detail is, of course, the interior floor plan.  The animation on the left shows how the floor plan is overlaid on the overall building structure. Click the image for a pop-up detailed view.  The room areas are color coded as follows:

Master Bath-Closet
Guest Bedroom-Bath

© 2000-2018, Phil and Lisa's relaxed lifestyle home.
An exercise in Energy Smart, Not So Big living. -


This site is all about building a cool, energy efficient house, that makes maximum use of earth sheltered design, passive solar heating and cooling, geothermal exchange energy management, and right sizing of the house for it's designated use. The home's placement is on a south-facing hillside in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. This site describes the design process, the technologies used and the expected results. We also have a comprehensive Links Page for anyone who is also interested in designing a similar project.