Retrospective #22: Let the Sun Shine In

A large part of eco-design is harnessing free, natural energy flows. Energy comes in many forms, but the most abundant and obvious free energy source to tap into is the sun. With the passing of the spring equinox and the return of longer days than nights, I’ll write one last time about passive solar design before putting it on hold until late next autumn. In the weeks to come I’ll write about some interior eco-thrifty renovations like our $2,500 kitchen and $2,000 bathroom.
This old villa was moved to its current location sometime in the 1980s, and was set down with the toilet in the northernmost corner. While this was not a particular selling point for us, we saw the potential for shuffling the toilet, laundry and kitchen around, and adding north-facing glazing.

North Corner: Day One

The other potential we saw was the sunny north end of the section, which is also the back of the section. While we are not advocates of roofing iron fences that are common in our neighborhood, we did want a little privacy. We also wanted easy access from the new kitchen to vegetable gardens and the outdoor pizza oven that we would place out-the-back. With some wind protection, we’ve been able to plant dozens of fruit trees, berry bushes and grape vines alongside our annual gardens. But I digress. Back to the poorly placed toilet.
Potty Training 
With little fanfare, but ample photo-documentation and much laughter (from my wife, Dani), I removed the toilet from the sunniest spot in our home. The next morning I commenced ripping a large hole in the wall. We had consent and followed the Building Code during this process, but be aware that the code has recently changed. Such work now requires a licensed builder.
 Let the Sun Shine In
We had French doors made by a local manufacturer, and installed them on the western side of the north corner. This gives us ample winter sun from 11 am onwards, and also provides views and access to our Eden-out-the-back.
While the low angle winter sun penetrates deep into the kitchen, the high angle summer sun bare enters. However, because the glass doors are northwest facing, we get a little too much late afternoon sun in the ‘shoulder seasons’ like right now and in March. This problem is easily remedied by drawing our curtains during the later hours of sunny days. While this excludes the sun from our kitchen, we remain content in the knowledge that it is still doing its job heating the water on our roof, and powering the plants and trees in our gardens.
Spring is an exciting time of year, and I love the indoor / outdoor flow provided by the French doors. If I had it to do over again I would have them made even bigger!
Peace, Estwing