A Small Earth-sheltered Sunroom
I would like to build a passive solar “sun room” in the side of a south-facing hillside for enjoyment or camping year-round. I want to take advantage of the thermal buffering the soil affords and be protected from high winds the site can experience. It is in a private location with no other houses visible.
I am carving a “notch” into the hillside that is 12 feet wide (east to west), 8 feet deep (north to south) and 8 feet tall (on the north side of the excavation). The flat “floor” of this excavation extends 16 feet from the back wall to the point where it breaks out of the slope. The room will be set in the back of this notch, with deck or patio space in the “outer” (southern) side. The notch’s vertical sides beyond the room’s south wall can be reinforced with landscaping blocks, or cut to stable angle of repose and planted.
The floor and earth sheltered walls will be heavily insulated and waterproofed, as will the roof. The walls, roof and floor will be heavily insulated. You need only be concerned with how he exposed portion of the exterior walls and roof will look. The roof you draw will be later engineered to support at least 12” of soil and anticipated heavy snow loads. There will be no running water, electricity, or bathroom facilities.
The challenge: Can one make a simple small rectangle that is mostly below ground inviting and architecturally interesting? With some major elements already fixed (e.g., perimeter size and shape of the room), everything else is open. Your attention should be on the roof-line, overhangs, patio/deck, door and windows, and interior/exterior finishes. Because the space is so small, we can afford some extravagance in the quality of materials and construction, especially if they are environmentally responsible.
1. Must be earth sheltered on 3 sides
2. Must have a south wall with ample glass
3. Must have some outside deck or patio area
4. Must have a green (living roof)
5. Must have a couch/bed convertible for sleeping a single adult
1. May show an entrance on either the south or west wall
2. May show a sloping south wall (but all walls min 7' tall)
2. May show stone pavers or brick for thermal mass
3. May show a small counter for meal prep, shelving for books, hooks for coats
4. May show a small wood-burning stove, outdoor wood storage.
5. May show an outdoor fire pit, built-in patio/deck seating, railing etc.
I like natural building materials, including rock and wood. I like exposed timbers and structure. I like organic and hand-built character. I like passive solar. I am less inclined to very modern style, shiny hard surfaces, and poured concrete structures.