Solaria is a the first “pre-designed” affordable green house in the Puerto Rico housing market. At $130,000 its making waves as a cost-effective way to provide high design to the masses.
The two-bedroom, two and a half bath home totals 1,200 square feet and was designed by Fernando Abruna for developer Jose Hernandez Castrodad, who sells the design, stamped plans with construction permits, and all the necessary sustainable materials, equipment, and systems.
This house was built as a show room for the developer and is part of the Puerto Rico Energy Center at the Turabo University Campus in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Students monitor the house’s performance. “The main purpose of our project is to develop a full understanding of how easy it is to build and live in a sustainable house,” explains builder Jose Hernandez Castrodad. “Our goal is to educate the general public about the possibility of adopting a green style of life. The design and the equipment used in the project is friendly for everyone; not highly specialized or sophisticated that it would be difficult or expensive to buy or to use.”
Solaria is designed for its longer facades to face North/South and the two shorter ones to face East/West. The simple volume measures 48 feet long by 13 feet wide. The building envelope was built with core insulated concrete panels to reduce heat passage to the interior. The narrowness of the house and the generous aluminum and glass jalousie window area allows for ample daylighting. Natural ventilation is supplemented by ceiling fans located in the main living space and the bedroom.
The first floor accommodates the kitchen, dining and living areas and a visitors’ bathroom fitted with a lavatory connected to a graywater system and a composting toilet that uses no water. The first floor has one bedroom with its own Lavadu. This is a Solaria innovation where the lavatory and shower are built as a single hybrid unit reducing plumbing costs and allowing for the simple reuse of gray waters coming from it. The house has a mezzanine level where the master bedroom is located, also with its own Lavadu.
The house has a double sloping roof which houses the solar hot water panels. It slopes down to a corner where rain water is harvested in an exterior concrete cistern, which protects the kitchen space from solar radiation.
The color palette of the home is minimal, consisting of high reflective, low-VOC paints. The interior and exterior walls and ceilings are painted in white. Façade details were accented in a darker green but limited to non-living spaces. The house also has a cool roof membrane to further mitigate solar radiation into the interior space.
Castrodad is particularly proud of the house in terms of incorporating green into the way people live in their homes. “We have been in the home building industry for 40 years, and I have never felt more proud of a predesigned home model,” he says. “It is not only a house, but it is also a style of living. There is enough talk about being green; it is time to stop talking and act green. I particularly like the design of the house because it integrates sustainability in every function of its structure. Architect Abrunas is one of the most knowledgeable persons on the subject of sustainability, and is very committed to promoting green structures. It was an enriching experience working with Abrunas, who is one of a kind."