Chelsea Green Publishing

The Solar House

Pages:286 pages
Book Art:Black and white photos and illustrations
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781931498128
Pub. Date October 01, 2002

The Solar House

Passive Heating and Cooling

Building & Energy

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 01, 2002


Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.

Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book The Natural House, brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.

The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn't use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian!

In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting.

In The Solar House, Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious—and entirely avoidable—errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today's home builders can succeed with solar designs.

Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate.

Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.


"An excellent guide for embracing ecologically-friendly living."--Midwest Book Review


Daniel D. Chiras

Dan Chiras paid his last electric bill in June of 1996. It is not that he has disavowed the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but rather that he has turned to the sun and wind to meet his family's needs.

In 1995, Dan, a former full-time college professor with years of experience in sustainable development, built a state-of-the-art rammed earth tire and straw bale home in Evergreen, Colorado. He installed solar electric panels on the roof; a year or so later he installed a small wind generator. Since that time, he has met nearly all of his electrical needs for his home and office from these clean, renewable sources.

Dan also heats his home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains 8000-feet above sea level with energy from the sun thanks to passive solar design. For backup heat on those cold winter nights, he burns a cord of wood a year, gathered free from his community. His annual gas bill, mostly for showers and cooking, runs about $120 a year - about $2 to $3 per month for natural gas and $10 per month to read the meter!

Dan has spent much of the past 30 years studying sustainability and applying what he has learned in solar energy, natural building, and green building to his residences, and most of the last ten years sharing the practical knowledge he has gained through writing, lectures, slide shows, and workshops.

Dan has published 21 books to date including several college and high school textbooks: Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future, Natural Resource Conservation, Human Biology, and Biology: The Web of Life. His high school environmental science text, Environmental Science, was selected as the official book of the U.S. Academic Decathlon's 1991 competition.

In the early 1990s, Dan published two trade books on environmental issues and sustainability for a general audience: Beyond the Fray: Reshaping America's Response and Lessons from Nature: Learning to Live Sustainably on the Earth.

Since 1995, Dan has focused most of his attention on residential green building. He has written extensively on the subject. His is books include: The Natural House: A Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy Efficient, Environmental Homes; The Natural Plaster Book; The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling; Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Suburbs; and The New Ecological Home.

His newest book, EcoKids: Raising Kids Who Care for the Earth will be published in the Spring of 2005 by New Society Publishers.

Dan also writes extensively for magazines, journals, newsletters, and newspapers. He has published nearly 250 articles on environmental issues, sustainability, natural building, natural plaster, green building, and passive solar heating and cooling. His articles appear regularly in Home Power, Mother Earth News, Natural Home, and The Last Straw.

Dan also writes frequently for World Book Encyclopedia (Science Year) and Encyclopedia Americana. He authored a 12-page article on the environment for Encyclopedia Americana. Dan has written environmental pollution section for World Book Encyclopedia's annual publication, Science Year, since 1993. In 1997, he wrote an extensive piece for World Book on population growth and its many implications. Dan also wrote the ecology and air pollution sections for Encyclopedia Americana.

In addition to his writing, Dan has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado in Denver and the University of Colorado at Denver. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, where he taught a course on environmental science. He currently is a Melon Visiting Professor at Colorado College where he teaches courses on renewable energy, ecological design, and sustainable development.

Through his writing and teaching in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dan played a leading role in promoting critical thinking, an understanding of the root causes of environmental issues, systemic solutions to environmental problems, sustainable development. He pioneered a systems approach to sustainable development and has played a lead role in articulating the principles, policies, and practices of sustainable development which seeks ways that business and society can prosper within a healthy environment. He is currently focusing most of his research and writing on sustainable building and sustainable communities.

Dan's free time is spent mountain biking, canoeing, playing music, and gardening.

For more information visit


The Hand-Sculpted House

The Hand-Sculpted House

By Ianto Evans and Michael G. Smith and Linda Smiley

Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage,cobb, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as "an ecstatic house."

The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable--earth, clay, sand, straw, and water--and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning "lump") is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.

Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder's imagination.
Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what's missing in our lives. Cob comes as a revelation, a key to a saner world.

Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest.

Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The Hand-Sculpted House

Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, Linda Smiley, Deanne Bednar

Paperback $35.00

The Woodland House

The Woodland House

By Ben Law

Designed as a dual-purpose book, The Woodland House is both a volume for the armchair enthusiast and an inspirational guide for those wishing to build a similar structure. Beautifully illustrated with more than 100 color photos, this step-by-step guide shows how Ben built his home, hewn from his own woodland, for under $45,000. It covers the basics of self-building and gives full details of the evolving design process, the identifying of materials, costs, project management, and the actual building stages, from foundations and frames, through to interior features. Includes a seven-year update detailing the extension of the house, natural insulation trials, and round-wood engineering calculations.

The building of Ben’s house was filmed for the Grand Design television series and has proved to be the most popular program of the series. He has also been featured on the Discovery Channel and Home & Garden Network’s The World’s Most Extreme Homes.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The Woodland House

Ben Law, Kevin McCloud

Paperback $29.95

Build Your Own Earth Oven

Build Your Own Earth Oven

By Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field

Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Building one will appeal to bakers, builders, and beginners of all kinds, from:

    •    the serious or aspiring baker who wants the best low-cost
bread oven, to
    •    gardeners who want a centerpiece for a beautiful
outdoor kitchen, to
    •    outdoor chefs, to
    •    creative people interested in low-cost materials and
simple technology, to
    •    teachers who want a multi-faceted, experiential project for students of all ages (the book has been successful  with
 everyone from third-graders to adults).

Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition. The average do-it-yourselfer with a few tools and a scrap pile can build an oven for free, or close to it. Otherwise, $30 should cover all your materials--less than the price of a fancy "baking stone." Good building soil is often right in your back yard, under your feet. Build the simplest oven in a day! With a bit more time and imagination, you can make a permanent foundation and a fire-breathing dragon-oven or any other shape you can dream up.

Earth ovens are familiar to many that have seen a southwestern "horno" or a European "bee-hive" oven. The idea, pioneered by Egyptian bakers in the second millennium BCE, is simplicity itself: fill the oven with wood, light a fire, and let it burn down to ashes. The dense, 3- to 12-inch-thick earthen walls hold and store the heat of the fire, the baker sweeps the floor clean, and the hot oven walls radiate steady, intense heat for hours.

Home bakers who can't afford a fancy, steam-injected bread oven will be delighted to find that a simple earth oven can produce loaves to equal the fanciest "artisan" bakery. It also makes delicious roast meats, cakes, pies, pizzas, and other creations. Pizza cooks to perfection in three minutes or less. Vegetables, herbs, and potatoes drizzled with olive oil roast up in minutes for a simple, elegant, and delicious meal. Efficient cooks will find the residual heat useful for slow-baked dishes, and even for drying surplus produce, or incubating homemade yogurt.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Build Your Own Earth Oven

Alan Scott, Kiko Denzer, Hannah Field

Paperback $17.95

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

By Tony Wrench

In Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, Tony shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this unique and affordable low-impact home. Always witty and inspiring, the author explains the process of visualizing and designing a house through to the practical side of lifting the living roof, infilling the walls, laying out rooms, and adding renewable, autonomous technology.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse has become a classic text sold all over the world. Tony’s home and lifestyle have attracted much media interest, and he and his partner continue to inspire many individuals and communities to seek out ways of living more sustainably.

Now in its third edition, with a fascinating ten-year update including a major new section on the couple’s marvelous straw bale den, Tony also includes sections on the physical design, and he writes about the lifestyle required for living in a roundhouse. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. There are additional photographs of life in and around the dwelling and illustrations from the construction plans for one of the UK’s most unique homes.

This true and captivating story covers the realizing of a lifetime’s dream as well as being a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living and wants to self-build an affordable, organic home.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse, 4th Edition

Tony Wrench

Paperback $14.95