3024 Meadowbrook (1985)


This solar home is not conventional, though it blends comfortably with its 1920s neighbors. The atrium design prototype was created by its architect/builder to test his concept that solar energy can be used as an effective partial source of heat for a family home, even in cloudy Cleveland. The emphasis has been to use readily available and affordable construction materials to achieve solar collection and heat conservation.


The three key features of the construction are the atrium, the masonry core and rock chamber, and the split-level living system, each level four feet above the last. The atrium is formed between the exterior wall of the house and bank of tall, glass, south-facing windows. This space is a "passive" solar collector. The atrium is also an energy-conserving element that acts as an environmental buffer by protecting one side of the house from outside temperature extremes.


Above the atrium, and augmenting solar collection, is an insulated attic formed on one side by a blackened metal roof covered with glass. The metal is heated by sunlight which, in turn, heats air drawn up from the atrium beneath it. When the air in this chamber has reached a predetermined temperature, a fan, switched on by thermostatic control, blows hot air into the house. The heated air is directed into the ductwork of the house (if it is immediately required), or to the 4-foot deep rock chamber that occupies half the basement, for storage and later radiant release. The solar system is supplemented by a wood burning stove and/or a forced-air furnace, depending on the resident's preference. The annual cost of these auxiliary fuels is approximately $250. In the summer, the glass roof is shaded by canvas awnings to keep the house cool.


The atrium, four feet below grade, is accessed through the back yard and leads directly into the kitchen-dining area. The lowest staircase rises to two ground-level bedrooms and a formal front entrance, the latter separated from the house by an unheated foyer, designed as an airlock. In the spacious studio-living room on level three, great inner windows (a feature of all rooms) are set within the atrium, providing a view without compromising the energy-collecting process. On the other side of the masonry core and at the top level, the master of the house has control of the solar thermostats and an overview of home and yard.