What you don”™t see is the drip irrigation system and the careful placement of recycled plastic barrels throughout the exterior for rainwater collection. There is also a permeable driveway for guest parking with recycled plastic discs containing accidental runaway gravel.
As you enter the home, you can”™t help but appreciate the soaring ceilings and generous natural light that comes through a combination of skylights and the courtyard floor plan. Every room of the house touches the center courtyard and gives both mental and literal circulation to more light and energy.
The courtyard plan also encourages inhabitants to take advantage of the nature around them with many of the doors downstairs leading directly outside.
The next thing one notices is the colorful mural in the foyer created by the couple”™s daughter. It”™s dedicated to the environmental landscape of California, playfully depicted by fluffy clouds, the water coming from far away mountains, a polluted ocean and a desert landscape. Huang asserts that it is important to show the pollution and the need for real water sources within the art and uses it as a gentle reminder for visitors and inhabitants to be conscious.
The very floor itself is utilized for maximum heating and cooling with both tile and concrete floors based on their thermal mass properties, meaning they have the ability to conduct and store both heat and cold, and to release the energy back into the space as it is needed. The height of the windowsills has been carefully planned, down to the decorative rocks that adorn them. It was an addition intended for both a decorative display of their personal collection and because of the ability of the rocks to absorb unnecessary heat from the sun. Outside, landscaping is strategically designed to enhance natural heating and cooling.
The sun is never neglected. Many of the skylights throughout the home serve multiple functions and often double as ventilation points to release heat from the building on hot summer nights. Huang notes that the desert climate relies on the cool nights to aid in the process.
On the roof lies a photovoltaic system to generate solar electricity and an 80-gallon solar water heater system. They have installed an innovative sprinkler system that they use about twice a year to serve double duty, cleaning the solar panels and also cooling the roof.
Though Mediterranean in its overall tone, the home pays tribute to their Chinese roots. This can be seen in the traditional circular dining table, antique art and antiquities and the inconspicuous feng shui details that involve detailed attention to placement of furniture and color throughout the house.
The tall Chinese Buddhist print in the family room draws the eyes upward once again as it gazes over the spacious kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with Energy Star appliances and is literally supported at the south wall by advanced thermosyphon air panels (TAPs) that act as another solar heater in the winter. There are about eight ceiling fans throughout the space that circulate both cool and warm air as needed.
Invisible to the eye is the technologically advanced insulation system and the wind-powered turbines in the roof .
We would be remiss not to mention the area of the house that, for most people, is the least important, but in this case, it is one of the most: the garage. Their innovative space is a hybrid of an enclosed garage and an open carport.
The front (carport) opens directly onto the courtyard with the back end acting as the enclosed garage when need arises. It has high voltage capacity for electric cars and is conveniently wired with both audio and visual hookups. All of it serves double duty for maximum circulation whether through the cooling breezes of the North winds or through human circulation as it functions as a spillover from the courtyard for summer parties.
Where do the guests conveniently end up? Under the watchful eye of the shady oak tree.