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Planting a solar home in a forest without losing the trees

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A solar home can work with the sun and integrate with the forest, too. When Betty and Dwight Busby decided to put a solar system on their wooded lot in Flagstaff, Ariz., it suggested the dilemma of trees shading the solar collectors, or else having to cut the beautiful ponderosa pines that are part of the lot's attaction.

MR. Busby, the energy-conscious president of the Arizona Planning Association , held out for a happy coupling. his approach was to "watch their relationship and get their points of view."

To get the sun's perspective, he took aerial photographs that showed where tree shadows fell across a natural clearing halfway down the slope of the property. By siting the solar collector in the clearing where there was a minimum of shadow, only one tree had to be cut.

There were other challenges in designing for this lot. For one, the lost sloped down from the road, facing north. A solar collector must face southM. In this case, it must be at the front of the house, thus dominating the entrance. Nevertheless, Mr. Busby set out to design a residence that both integrated with its setting and whose solar-heating system was effective in the high mountainous climate.

To ensure effectiveness, he opted for 540 square feet of collector surface, employing high-efficeincy solar panels stacked in vertical columns to conserve lot space and avoid shadows. the result was a collector 20 feet wide by 33 feet high, its vertical form aesthetically paralleling the surrounding pines.

By carrying the vertical approach through in the house -- three stories stacked back to back with the collector -- each level has wide views north: down to a golf course green at the foot of the hill, across to forest treetops, and up to Mt. Eldon's peak at 9,200 feet.

three bedroons and two baths occupy the lower floors. The living-dining-kitchen areas are on top, not only for the eagle's view, but also to allow the warm air rising through the house to keep the sleeping levels cooler and the sitting level warmer. the first and third floors open onto outdoor decks for squirrel watching and sunbathing.

At east and west elevations the chimney and stairwell are housed in rounded redwood enclosures that flank the high vertical lines of the house with a symmetry of curves.

The third-floor living area is linked to the road at the top of the hill with -- what else? -- a covered bridge. Bridging to a garage at roadside removes the need for a driveway and related snow shoveling and provides a 60-foot entrance with a curved transparent acrylic cover.

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