The Natural Home Building Source
The Natural Home Building Source
The Natural Home Building Source

Sustainable design, zero energy, passive solar, high thermal mass HTM house plans and solar home design basics for professionals and homeowner-builders alike. Welcome to our free eBook - click on images for additional detail chapters.

With over 20 years of experience, we are the original zero-energy green home building company!
Sustainable design, zero-energy, passive solar homes are free from mechanical climate control systems for truly independent living. Our website is packed with loads of valuable free information, so please take the time to read all of this passive solar chapter and all of the many detail pages. Learn why high thermal mass (HTM™) dry stack block, mortared concrete block, or poured-in-place concrete wall construction is a much better answer than super-insulated (high R value) air-tight construction for ANY climate. Conventional stick framing, log homes, strawbale houses, autoclaved aerated concrete construction, and especially insulated concrete forms ICF's are simply not feasible, passive solar, sustainable design materials because they don't effectively store and release energy. For truly sustainable passive solar house plans, the wall and floor building material of choice is high thermal mass. Please note that sustainable, passive solar, alternative house plans don't have to mean alternative materials. We prefer to use poured-in-place concrete walls or better yet, concrete blocks for easy do-it-yourself dry stack block walls with surface bonding cement. More on that later. If anything, an HTM is simply a more commercial approach than conventional residential architecture in its construction details. And commercial construction details can cut costs up to twenty percent, as compared to conventional stick-frame residential house plans. In every part of the world, corner markets, garages, gas stations and warehouses are built with concrete and block for good reasons: economy, durability, longevity, and ease of maintenance. In parts of Florida, nearly every home is block-built to avoid termites, rot, and tropical storms. They found high thermal mass homes excel at keeping air conditioning bills lower by virtue of the fly-wheel effect and more comfortable radiant cooling. Radiant cooling and heating are more comfortable because you store the cooling and heating energy in the walls and floor, not just the stale air inside the home.

Chapter 1 here is an introduction to HTM design basics with the following pages going into detail
2     photo gallery is packed with photos and commentary from our HTM Home Tour DVD video
3     dry stack surface bonding cement construction photos and sample block layout sketches
4     floor plans is an annotated progression of layout design choices for more functional HTMs
5     roof detail chapter outlines T&G plank-style vented roof decking atop log purlin joist beams
6     sun screens shade panel micro-climate passive cooling design tips and installation tricks
7     heat storage with fiberglass water tanks providing a means to moderate temperature swings
8     earth tubing is a simple, passive method for tempering a household's fresh air return intake
9     solar orientation is important, but HTM designs excel in hot or cold climates alike... anywhere
10   exterior fascia SBC stucco coatings over EPS foam board insulation and sloped glass details
11   wing insulation details and shallow footer, frost-protected perimeter foundation treatments
12   planter beds are central, functional features in greenhouse style HTM home construction
13   links page is packed full of handy research references and relevant manufacturer websites

HTM construction homes will function just fine in any climate, anywhere in the world.
Block and poured-in-place concrete homes and businesses can be found in every town in the world. Add exterior wall insulation for heating and cooling retention, wing insulation to keep the pad and perimeter dry, shading details for the summer months, and properly sloped glazing for optimal passive solar heating performance in winter months... and you have an HTM. Just like any house, you take what free solar gain there is available and supplement the rest. 'Form follows Function' the more passive and sustainable you wish for the house plan to perform. It is vital with an HTM to include ALL of the necessary 'systems' and construction details, not just select some of them. That's why you may find well-respected local builders and architects quite certain that "an HTM will not work here". Usually they are simply not speaking from experience. If it is an actual building being critiqued, the architect either failed to include a basic 'system' like drapes and shade cloth, or did not install thermal breaks between foundation and driveway or sidewalks, or did not provide for proper roof drainage, or simply did not install wing insulation around the foundation perimeter. More on that later. Functional structural details are key, allowing the home's exterior to appear pretty much as you wish from stucco to vinyl siding, wood, log, straw, brick or stone.

Passive solar heating and radiant cooling energy needs to be quickly absorbed and released.
When a home's walls and floor do not store & release energy, the constant radiant heat loss between warm occupants and these cooler surfaces creates a sensation of cold in an otherwise comfortably warm room. Materials such as strawbales, rubber tires, wood, carpet, logs, ICFs, autoclaved aerated concrete, and drywall, all effectively resist heat loss (R value), but they have very low energy storage capabilities. Strawbales, wood, and foam blocks just don't store any heat! Sure, strawbales and styrofoam will insulate well, but in a passive solar house plan you must be able to store energy in the interior walls. Strawbales make fine insulation wrapped around the outside of an HTM, but don't use bales for the house's actual wall building material. When radiant heat energy is stored only in the thin coat of plaster or drywall, mechanical solutions like radiant in-floor heating or a central forced air HVAC system become necessary. HTMs have no moving parts in their heating and cooling systems to ever break down. Simplicity is the key to sustainable HTM design. We believe in a very low-tech approach to making your family comfortable.

Embodied energy in choice of construction materials is an important environmental concern.
The amount of energy it takes to harvest and process raw materials, mill and manufacture, and then ship building materials to market is their 'embodied energy'. Charts can make it seem as though poured-in-place concrete and cinder block walls have a much higher initial embodied energy, but by the time you consider ALL the missing factors from the chart, they start looking like the lowest overall. One needs to consider the value of much more sustainable and healthy indoor environment with features like an indoor garden for growing your own food in any climate. Functional energy savings over the extremely long lifetime of a poured concrete or cinder block HTM home more than make up for the initial embodied energy of the material being used. Take the long view and we trust you will agree with us that the embodied energy investment in a concrete home is well worth it over the long run.

This picture link takes you to a details page with smaller, easier to load on dialup, interior photos of our sustainable home design.

Chapter 2 - Photogallery of our most sustainable HTM design, created over twenty years ago

Orientation naturally plays a major role in any passive solar design.
In colder climates, it pays to point your window glass due South, directly towards all that wonderful free solar heating energy of the sun. In warmer climates, you can orient more towards East/West up to due North in a desert climate to take advantage of a view or adapt layout to the building site. With proper shading, orientation is not so critical. Shade cloth covered trellises above the glass will lower solar gain in the summer months, creating a much cooler micro-climate alongside the home. HTMs can also take advantage of off-peak air conditioning rates and night-time cooling breezes. Lowering a home's humidity is perhaps the only task not feasible with passive non-electric systems. If your personal comfort level currently dictates air conditioning, chances are an HTM could get by with de-humidification equipment or just fans to keep the air moving. Whole house dehumidifiers are one mechanical system that is improving dramatically these days. Syndicated columnist James Dulley's website updates their mechanical system reviews from time to time at:

Healthy homes ventilate constantly to ensure a fresh indoor air supply.
Conventional passive solar architecture relies way too much upon air tight, high insulation construction with light-weight materials to produce 'energy efficient' homes and businesses. We feel this is the wrong path when you are expecting to also have a healthy home indoor environment. In order to attain the kind of energy efficiency ratings conventional architects claim, the house must be sealed up as tight as a zip-lock baggie. Venting fresh air into an air tight, high insulation home just means losing all your comfortably heated air. High thermal mass building materials allow the radiant heating and cooling energy to be stored within walls and floor. This allows you to vent the inside air of an HTM without 'losing' all your heating or air conditioning comfort. Fresh air is vital to the health of your home. That's why you can never have too much solar gain. Being able to keep you home ventilated in the winter is a big factor left out of house plan discussions. If you have 'excess' solar gain in the winter, you can always just vent it out. Healthy home focus is rarely given its due priority by residential architects, meanwhile schools are required by building code to totally exchange indoor air for fresh outside air a few times every hour. Sustainable design, passive solar house plans can ultimately function without any mechanical devices controlling indoor climate. The huge thermal mass acts as a giant battery constantly recharging with direct solar energy gain brought in through the windows and using the same moderating thermal mass effect to cool in the summer. Good old-fashioned adobe architecture.

Beware of envelope home stick-frame architecture still being sold as 'green building'.
When examined from an indoor air quality perspective, many sustainable home design schemes are just plain old-fashioned wrong like the envelope home concept. Stick-frame wooden envelope homes allow heated/cooled air to loop around through the structure's walls. A cavity between inner and outer exterior walls is left open to act as a giant ventilation duct drafting passive solar heated air through it. Envelope homes are an extremely bad idea for your indoor air quality since there is absolutely no effective method to clean/sterilize this open 'duct area' between the walls. Mold, mildew, and the occasional dead mouse eventually renders an envelope home the distinction of being a very bad idea indeed. Envelope homes with fiberglass batt insulation are even worse. Impossible to clean without disturbing all that itchy fiberglass dust.

Strawbales, logs, ICFs, and other High-R wall materials hinder solar performance.
Concrete is the best material for many reasons, but sandwiched insulation panels and foam foundation blocks (ICFs) such as Rastra®, Faswall®, Tech-Block®, and Conform® were simply not functionally designed for passive solar homes. The main issue with interlocking extruded polystyrene EPS foam foundation blocks ICF's and Faswall® wood and concrete blocks is that the insulation is on both sides of the wall. Insulating the exterior of your foundation wall is good thinking, but insulating the interior of the wall simply prevents the release of any radiant heat that is stored within the concrete. Why pay for all that concrete and ICFs then never get a chance to actually use the radiant heat storage functionally? The basic principle of sustainable, passive solar heating/cooling is that the house AND the ground under and around it stores heat all summer and releases it all winter. You need to look at the home itself as a means to store and release energy. The analogy of a battery is often used to describe the way an HTM high thermal mass home functions: storing energy when it is available for use later, when it's needed. Please note that we are not talking about storing enough heat to get through a couple of days without any sunlight. This is seasonal passive solar heat storage. Sandwiched insulated panels, where the layer of insulation is trapped between an outer layer of concrete and inner layer of concrete can be even less effective than ICFs. The problem with sandwiched panels is that the outside thermal mass layer is often thermally connected to the floor slab and foundation. Any energy stored in the home's floor and inside wall mass is allowed to escape directly to the outside like a giant radiator fin in the winter and robbing cooling capability in the summer months.

Concrete is the best wall and floor material because it quickly stores lots of energy.
Thermal mass is a relative measure of an object's ability to store heat. The complete inability of strawbales and logs to store heat is what makes them such a poor choice for a passive solar home or an attached greenhouse. People and plants alike are much healthier in a consistent, radiant heat rich, naturally lighted, and well vented environment. If your structure is not storing solar heat brought in through the windows quickly enough, temperatures rapidly become too high for comfort and you either have to shade with drapes or ventilate the energy out. That's why you'll rarely see an attached greenhouse like this on a strawbale or stick-frame home. Airtight homes are bad enough to begin with, but straw, wood, and wallboard paper are fuels that promote black mold growth in moist, unvented locations. Cracks in the strawbale plaster open the wall's interior to indoor air humidity. Meanwhile, a surface bonded block wall is waterproof and can be further sealed with non-porous latex paint, providing no fuel to promote exotic growths that affect indoor air quality. Natural plasters are always an option for the concrete wall's finish coat, but keep in mind plasters do not create a non-porous, waterproof coating. Strawbales are often used by HT clients for insulation outside of their homes. There is nothing wrong with stacking them around the exterior, under eaves, to help insulate, but using strawbales for a permanent interior wall building material is not a good idea in a passive solar home. Solar house plans lacking thermal mass are simply not able to store passive solar energy properly. Using strawbales for interior wall building material has problems.

Simplicity of design is what allows an HTM to function sustainably. Check out these interior photos.

Coming soon... more recent slideshow highlighting remodel work and HTM design additions

If high thermal mass is your objective, think twice before using AAC blocks.
Autoclaved aerated concrete blocks were developed well over seventy years ago in Europe, but are a relatively recent marketing development here in the states. They are always an option, but understand that you cannot have effective insulation AND considerate thermal mass at the same time. Countless air pockets throughout these blocks accentuate insulation value while cutting back on material costs, shipping weight, and thermal mass. In conventional High-R construction, AAC blocks have a place, but if you want a truly sustainable design passive solar home, choose more conventional high thermal mass. Concrete from your local batch plant or concrete blocks from your regional yard keeps your money local and gives you a much stronger and higher thermal mass home. Autoclaved aerated concrete cannot be mostly air while at the same time be just as strong and have the same thermal mass as solid concrete - it just doesn't happen.

HTMs can potentially be homeowner-builder projects, saving a great deal on labor.
One place to save a lot of money building a home is supplying your own labor or at least using relatively unskilled labor since salaries can amount to 2/3 of the final cost on a turn-key project. Earthships using recycled tires for the walls are less expensive in terms of materials and labor, but that happy glow from recycling tires is of little consolation to your sore back after ramming hundreds of wheelbarrows full of dirt into those endless radials. There is a wealth of information to be found in Michael Reynolds' Earthship series of books, but think carefully before you decide to build with alternative materials. Selling an 'alternative' home can be very difficult. The type of family that would like to own a house made out of strawbales or car tires is also the type that would rather build it themselves. You need to hit a happy medium between environmental idealism and common business sense when choosing your home's building materials. Building with concrete block or poured-in-place concrete walls is a tried and true commercial style of construction, saving money and producing a much more 'conventional' structure.

Resale values are lower and mortgages harder to float on alternative building materials.
A home and the land it sits on is a HUGE investment, likely the largest in the life of most families. Recycled tires, papercrete, cob, rammed earth and strawbales can be a VERY tough sell. The economic reality is that despite what we all wish, the $30 a square foot earth home is not going to be worth much on the open market. In some respect, it's of little consequence that it was cheap to build in the first place if it has no mortgage value. HTM home designs typically entail concrete block walls or poured in place concrete, ensuring a much better resale value by being a lot more 'conventional' in the eyes of your banker and those pesky real estate agents. Most people are not concerned about the prospect of selling their hand-built home, but you may need to borrow against it someday. Just how much an HTM style structure costs to build is an elusive question. The number of variables is staggering, kind of like asking how much does a car cost without knowing the make and model. Generally speaking, if you do most all of the work yourself and you bid your materials well, $50 a square foot or less, is possible.

Concrete block dry-stacking walls with surface bonding cement for the do-it-yourselfer.
Dry-stacking is a high thermal mass construction technique wherein concrete masonry unit CMU block walls are assembled without any mortar. Only the first course is bedded in grout on the foundation to establish plumb and level for the rest of the wall. These CMU blocks need not be of any special design. They don't have to be special shapes that interlock together. Beware of clever marketing schemes selling 'trick' dry stack blocks since common concrete block works just as good. You simply stack the concrete blocks in a running bond pattern and then parge both sides with a single layer of fiber reinforced, surface bonding cement SBC structural stucco. Applied a minimum of 1/8" thick to both sides, SBC has strengths that are superior to conventionally mortared block walls and they look a lot better without all those grout lines. One must understand that grout between blocks is NOT an adhesive. Mortar grout is simply a leveling agent to keep the wall plumb and actually weakens a wall since it can crack anywhere the grout lines are. Surface bonding cement comes in tint-able white or gray, making a finish coat or painting optional. The surface bonding cement's polyester fibers interlock to form a VERY strong and waterproof wall. Structural steel details are the same as mortared block walls with one hollow vertical core every few feet filled with ready-mix concrete and a stick of #5 rebar. These filled cores are where the straps holding roof are placed. All other cores are normally filled with concrete, gravel or sand for additional thermal mass. No reason to leave any cores empty or filled with insulation. Please note that poured-in-place concrete walls are just as effective, when waterproofed properly, but your average person does not have the skills needed to form up and pour concrete walls.

Dry stack concrete block walls use surface bonding cement instead of mortar.

Chapter 3 - Dry stack block surface bonding cement installation photos and construction tips

Worried about fire, termites, mold, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes?
When you compare dry stack block to other building materials, remember the three little pigs! Dry stack block walls are worlds stronger and much more durable than any stick framed or strawbale home. In addition to being fireproof and waterproof, surface bonded walls resist air infiltration and sound penetration better than any other type of construction material and they are absolutely termite and rot proof! One coat application of surface bonding cement provides both structural strength and a textured stucco finish with coloring capability that can even eliminate the need for painting. The economic strength of dry laid block lies in the fact that block can be dry stacked 70% faster than laid in mortar and done by relatively unskilled laborers. Plus, surface bonded cement block walls have greater flexural and racking strengths than conventional mortar construction.

HTM sustainable zero-energy home designs are perfect for homeowner builders.
The most economical route to owning a new home is building it yourself. Since HTM passive solar home designs require no prior drywall, bricklaying, framing or siding skills, the average person can build their own walls without the assistance of expensive subcontractors. Solid, poured in place concrete or mortared block walls are just as effective, but the cost of hiring contractors to build the forms, pour the walls, and then return to strip the forms can be prohibitively expensive for many people. We have experimented with a great many low-tech low-cost techniques and know all too well what doesn't work. Construction approaches need to be both simple and effective. This knowledge is what sets us apart from the others. We are experienced builders and not just architects with a purely theoretical perspective.

Two story homes and loft style construction is an option, like any other house design.
Hybrid HTM homes are relatively common, especially when a small building site dictates it. Two story and loft styles combine conventional building architecture with sustainable passive HTM solar design. Key is understanding all that dry earth under and around your foundation (underneath the wing insulation) is a huge thermal mass energy storage 'device' that cannot be duplicated on a second floor. Even with block walls and a concrete floor, the upper floor, or loft, will require some sort of mechanical heating and cooling to maintain the same radiant comfort level. Second floor HVAC systems are often little more than fans and ducts to transfer hot/cold air around, but you will need to plan for something in a two story design. Avoid digging a below-grade basement since that breaks ground contact. Best practice is a 'walkout to grade' with glass along basement south face, essentially a standard HTM with structure above. Initial cost savings are to be found in a two story building, with the trade-off being energy independence. Single story HTMs are inherently more comfortable with complete radiant heating/cooling instead of depending upon air temperature for your personal comfort level. This constant and comfortable, very subtle temperature moderation is always a surprising feeling to people used to living in a stick-framed house. You get some feel for it with radiant in-floor heating and cooling systems, but it is even more subtle in an HTM where the walls are projecting energy too.

Hand drawn plans come from the perspective of a builder who walks the walk. These floorplans are just a few examples of what's possible with an HTM.

Chapter 4 - Sample HTM floorplans highlights the most functional passive solar design layouts

HTMs are structurally common enough to function well in any climate, anywhere.
Block and poured-in-place concrete homes and businesses can be found in every town in the world. That's what makes high thermal mass HTM construction so economical and functionally sensible: common commercial construction details. Add exterior insulation (for heating and cooling retention), wing insulation to keep the pad dry, shading details in the summer, and sloped glazing for optimal passive solar heating performance in the winter... and you have an HTM. In colder locations, your HTM is orientated as close to true, not magnetic, south as possible Within 15 degrees is best practice and the exterior walls are heavily insulated to allow retention of heat over the longer periods of winter conditions. This exterior insulation typically entails attaching layers of extruded polystyrene EPS blue/pink board styrofoam insulation and then covering it with stucco, stone, or siding. In extreme climates that are very hot or cold, the building can be earth-bermed to provide additional insulation and protection from the elements. Walk into one of the old Federal courthouse buildings made out of solid granite blocks in the middle of a hot summer sometime and you will know what we are talking about here. Modern details like perimeter wing insulation keep your home's entire heat-sink dry and at a very consistent temperature.

HTM passive solar simplicity of form working with function is the key to success.
Please note that an HTM is not always bermed or buried into a hillside with a walkout basement. Underground earth home designs are always an option with an HTM, but most people opt for the conventional, above ground appearance. The same choice applies to sloped glass, but bear in mind that vertical glass does not supply nearly as much solar gain.'s HTM design model is basically southwestern adobe home architecture that has withstood the test of time because it works simply and naturally. We suggest substituting concrete block for adobe since block is more readily available throughout the country and better suited to complying local building codes and engineering needs. Once the first row is set in mortar on the foundation footers, walls take shape pretty fast since the rest of the blocks are dry-stacked with no mortar between the blocks. Surface bonding cement is troweled onto both sides of the concrete block walls, tooled into various stucco textures, and often left as the one-coat, finished product on the inside for no unhealthy drywall here. Exterior walls are insulated and given a cosmetic coat of stucco, siding, or whatever treatment is necessary to allow an HTM to blend into its neighborhood. If you want to use conventional mortared block walls or poured-in-place concrete, go right ahead, we're with you all the way. It's just that dry stack is worlds easier for the unskilled homeowner-builder. You don't have to have any experience with laying block to dry stack.

Choice in roof construction design is unlimited, as are possible exterior finishes.
A lot of attention has been given to our choice of log roof 'purlin' beams and stucco exterior. You certainly can use conventional stick-frame dimensional lumber trusses for the roof and finish the exterior in any fashion you wish. The main advantage for log purlins, besides the nice log home look, id they are locally available and cost is low in many parts of the country. A nice tip is to look for untreated telephone poles that did not meet stringent government standards. Power pole rejects are fine structurally and often sold for the price of firewood. What you notice most with purlins after the home is finished is the way round logs greatly soften the angular, linear nature of an otherwise rectangular box design. Roof and exterior aesthetic choices rarely have any effect on overall function, so the street-view and roof design can be as conventional as desired. HTM design boils down to taking what free solar gain there is available in your area and supplementing the rest, just like any other home.

Natural log purlin with T&G roof decking detail page

Chapter 5 - Roof construction details featuring full-round log purlins for rafters and T&G decking

Greenhouse style, sloped glazing brings in much more solar energy and free natural light.
Ask any gardener, you just can't grow crops behind vertical glass! Sloped glass gives an HTM sustainable design its unconventional look, but vertical glass simply does not produce as much solar heat gain. It is one of the main function versus fashion decisions you'll be faced with. Take plenty of time to carefully consider this all-important sustainable home heating decision. Losing heat through the glass at night is of little concern when thermal mass is so BIG and your windows have been sloped to allow at least 30% more energy in. And there is absolutely no need to use movable or expensive specialty glass either. After all, the whole concept of Low-E glass is to keep energy out. Let all the solar energy into your house you can and the 'excess' gain will allow you to ventilate more aggressively in the winter. Fresh air in the middle of a long winter is a luxury without measure for your health and general welfare.

Too much south facing glass is not a problem for HTMs... it is a function for them.
Too much south facing glass can be a critical design problem for stick-frame homes, strawbale and log homes, and earthships because of their relatively low thermal masses. Soil compacted into a tire simply does not absorb and release heat fast enough to avoid uncomfortable temperature swings, and be assured that those 'solar absorbent' floor tiles in your strawbale or log home won't help much when the structure itself fails to store any heat! HTM passive solar home designs allow you to have LOTS of south facing glass for growing indoor food crops without the harmful temperature swings common in other types of construction. Concrete walls react extremely fast to absorb excess solar gain and release it later, when needed to moderate indoor temperatures. The enormous thermal mass under and around the home slowly 'charges' over the course of the summer, allowing this stored energy to keep the home comfortable all winter. Insulated drapes are a common addition in cold, cloudy winter climates, but keep in mind that even on a cloudy day your home gets some solar gain. In hot climates, you cool your thermal mass by installing sun shade materials along the exposed glass front. For details on creating a cooler micro-climate outside the home with a shaded trellis, take this link to the shade cloth chapter. Please note that wing shades, as pictured below, are not as common as a standard overhead horizontal trellis with shade netting.

Shade cloth sun screen trellis to create micro-climate outside of glass and reduce solar gain in the summer months

Chapter 6 - Sunscreen shade panel micro-climate cooling design tips and installation tricks

Beware ingenious methods to capture, store, and later release excess passive solar energy.
Please be careful and don't believe everything you read, as some ideas are plain toxic. Concrete blocks laid on their sides under a floor or open rock beds with fans to blow out the stored heat are classic textbook examples of what does NOT work in the real world. These concepts look great on paper and do manage to store some heat, but they all have one major drawback: the inability to access heat storage areas for periodic cleaning. Some pretty scary hairy things tend to grow quite well in such nice warm, dark, moist environments. A classic example of this bad idea is using the space between ceiling and roof (attic) to vent solar heated air around inside the home. Off-gassing from glues and building materials like fiberglass insulation, plywood, and OSB board plus the chance of mold and mildew is ever-present since the cavity is impossible to clean. Dirt, dust and insects will eventually build up, creating a toxic indoor air problem. Only consider installing such systems when the entire ventilation loop is closed, sealed off from indoor air leakage and hopefully made from non-organic material such as plastic pipe that can be cleaned. Fresh air intake for your air-tight living space must be protected against contaminated air leakage by forcing fresh air intake/outlet to use designated paths, like Earth tubes and appliance vents.

Attached greenhouses are a great addition for any home when designed properly.
Whether remodeling a 300 year old colonial or correcting a conventional passive solar home mistake, an attached greenhouse along the south side is a winning proposition. A well insulated home 'senses' outdoor temperature through the weakest points at doors and windows, and passive solar homes do have a lot of glass. By moderating the temperature immediately outside with an attached greenhouse you create a very favorable micro-climate next to glass/wall and your home does not experience such wide temperature swings (night/day and summer/winter). Buffering with a second layer of glass as in a double front-face design naturally drops your solar gain potential in the winter months, thus lowering your ability to ventilate as aggressively, but it is often a good trade-off when you are dealing with a low thermal mass passive solar home having a tough time absorbing energy as it arrives. The double front-face design is always an option, but it does tend to ruin the view from inside the home.

Interior heat storage with fiberglass tanks is a stylish alternative to storing water in 55 gallon drums.
Solarium designs with overhead glass benefit from a wall of tubes across the middle of the sunroom. Central placement spreads the radiant energy evenly, but if your room has a solid ceiling and vertical glass, tubes are placed closer to the windows. With an unbroken line of tubes, you can create a very effective water filled Trombe wall. Picture a huge solar 'battery' automatically charging, decharging, and recharging on free energy day every sunny day. Being in direct sunlight is always best practice, but solar storage water tubes will perform a subtle moderating effect in the shade.

Chapter 7 - Heat storage tubes detail page

Prevent temperature swings in sunrooms with fiberglass heat storage tubes for solarium cooling and solar heat storage.

A pair of wool socks is the most cost effective, ecologically sound, sustainable solar comfort tool.
The human body senses heating and cooling needs at the ankles and wrists. Rub an ice cube or drops of cold water between your wrists in the desert and suddenly the heat stroke is 'gone'... put on a pair of wool socks in the winter and miraculously you're not freezing. The floors in an HTM temper and moderate at the same temperature as the walls. Maintaining about 65 degrees in the winter and summer, more/less if you add energy, is attainable with good basic design. With bare feet, this may 'feel' cold, so wear slippers. If you want a superheated floor with higher than room temperature, in-floor radiant heat tubing is always an option. Best practice is to lay in-floor radiant heat tubing in the floor slab whether you end up using it or not. Materials are relatively cheap for the resale value they add to any project.

Earthtubing is another very solid idea, perfect for passive tempering the home's fresh air return.
Earthtubing functions as the path of least resistance with earthtubes allowing outside ventilation air to naturally temper as it flows along a series of plastic pipes, warming or cooling as the season may require. In homes that must have a dust and allergen-free environment, fresh ventilation air can be filtered and the sealed, smooth wall pipes periodically cleaned. Try that trick with a rock storage bed or concrete block Solar Slab channels under a concrete floor. Conventional homes are typically High-R value and airtight, so all of the heating and cooling effect is stored within the air temperature. If you let the air escape, you lose all your comfort. High thermal mass building materials allow the heating and cooling effect to be stored within the home's walls and floor for radiant comfort. This allows you to vent the inside air of an HTM without 'losing' all your heating or air conditioning comfort. Fresh air is vital to the health of a home. That's why you can never have too many windows and too solar gain, because you can always vent more in the winter and shade in the summer.

Earthtube return-air passive solar ventilation systems are not the same as geothermal heat pumping.
Earthtubes are sustainable, non-electric, passive heating and cooling systems. Unlike geothermal heat pumps, earthtubes do not involve any exotic machinery or special type of pipe that we are trying to sell you. The technique is decidedly low-cost and low-tech. Cleaning, for instance, simply involves pulling a bleach, alcohol, peroxide, or disinfectant solution soaked towel through the plastic pipes. Compared to rectangular metal heating and cooling ductwork, earthtubes are very easy to keep clean and possibly even sterile. Be careful with Earthtube details... architects are warming to the idea, but they are making very elementary functional design mistakes, like not providing a means to clean them.

Chapter 8 - Earthtube ventilation detail page

Earthtube passive solar heating and cooling detail page.

Here's a passive cooling system that works in any climate, with minimal energy.
In-floor radiant heat tubing systems can also be used for cooling. Simply pump cold well, pond, or river water through your system of 'geothermal' pipes embedded in the floor slab. The radiant cooling effect makes higher room air temperatures feel much, much cooler since your ankles are chilled by the cold water running through the concrete floor. Sustainable homes will often feature large cisterns, orchards, gardens and ponds, so there is always a use for the water as it passes through, so it isn't wasted energy or natural resources. Lacking a purpose for the water you are pumping through the floor tubing, you can always send it right back down into the groundwater with a drywell leaching pit and possibly reclaim some of that energy with a water turbine. Free air conditioning! This passive radiant cooling effect can be totally energy-free when diverting a small stream or spring. Low tech, passive solar heating and cooling techniques work, naturally.

Sustainable peace-of-mind makes an HTM more valuable than a conventional home.
HTMs are economically sensible, easily constructed, ecologically sensitive, healthy, natural homes that are not only energy efficient, but actually energy independent, capable of storing heat and regulating the indoor environment without any expensive repair-prone, mechanical systems. We are not just talking about storing heat for a few days here, this is seasonal passive annual solar heat storage with no 'moving parts'. HTMs are more than functional though, they breathe through their earthtubes and have a fresh, living presence which is a world apart from stuffy, confining, conventional stick-frame housing. Solar radiant heat is a very gentle source of warmth that is infinitely more comfortable than forced air HVAC systems. The HTM pictured throughout this site, was torture-tested at an 8700 foot elevation in a very nasty 10,000+ heating degree day climate: degree-day explanation link. The passive ability of an HTM to stay comfortably warm in the winter and cool in the summer, is easily managed in any climate. Extremes of climate or personal taste may necessitate mechanical climate control systems, but they will be smaller and more economical. De-humidifiers, for instance, are highly recommended for hot, humid areas.

Sloped glass is the only natural way to grow crops in the winter.
 We have tomatoes producing inside this HTM twelve months of the year at an 8700 foot elevation in the Rockies!

Chapter 9 - HTM orientation and extreme climate testing at 8700 foot in the Colorado Rockies

HTMs are considered more conventional commercial construction than alternative.
Alternative building styles do not have to be new and we haven't re-invented the wheel. What we have done is create a nice tight little package that solves a lot of sustainable design and basic architectural problems without being unconventional. One of the main difficulties with alternative housing has always been that 'alternative' quickly translated into trouble and expense for subcontractors grumbling about difficult to find materials and unfamiliar construction details. A practical conventional approach makes the general contractor's job a lot easier and this is very important for homeowner builders. Commercial style construction allows for more exposed electrical and plumbing details, versus residential stick-framing construction where wood framed walls are drilled full of holes by the plumber and electrician and then everything is covered with drywall. Makes it very difficult to correct any mistakes, if nothing else.

HTM house plans are less expensive to build because you can supply more of the labor.
We would never dream of suggesting that someone who has never done any framing or drywalling attempt to build a conventional stick framed home. These are skills that take lots of practice to become skilled and proficient. Dry stack concrete block is, however, relatively simple to master. Once the walls are up, the roof is all that's left. This is but one reason that an HTM will save you a lot of money versus conventional stick framing, but the real savings comes every month with your power bill and peace of mind. Poured-in-place concrete walls are an option to dry stock block, especially when you are contracting out all the labor. Poured-in-place concrete, block, sand bag, adobe, rammed earth and other high thermal mass wall building materials all share a common trait: the ability to moderate indoor temperature passively. Concrete has the fastest response time and conductivity to best store and release energy quickly, avoiding unwanted temperature swings. Sand bags and wide compressed earth blocks CEB may have more mass, but they are slower to uptake energy and it is that ability to eliminate temperature swings that dictates personal comfort level in a passive solar home.

HTM's are passive solar, thermal mass, sustainable design, house plans featuring earthtubes, surface bonding, dry stack with concrete block (or poured-in-place).
  They are much more functional than any strawbale, papercrete, cob, or earth bag alternative method.

Chapter 10 - HTM exterior details featuring do-it-yourself SBC over foamboard insulation

Beware of high-tech answers to low-tech problems... simple passive systems last longer.
That's why HTMs are typically designed to be as simple and self-sustaining as possible. Complicated mechanical heating and cooling systems are a burden on more than just your pocketbook. Artificial temperature control systems directly affect the 'natural feel' of a home. Abundant direct sunlight and electricity-free, radiant, passive solar heat feels right, is easy to maintain, and allows an HTM to have smaller photovoltaic PV, wind, or hydroelectric systems. Should you install photovoltaic panels, we recommend installing them on a rack in the yard NEVER on your roof. Roofs are made for protecting your house from water leakage. Drilling holes in your roof to attach solar panels is just a bad idea. Who wants to climb up on the panels to remove snow and ice or make repairs? And your fire department will not be able to access the roof to punch through for hosing down a house fire. With an adjustable rack in the yard, you can track the sun seasonally for more power AND avoid costly roofing repairs down the road.

HTM shallow footer wing insulation and frostwall details page.

Chapter 11 - Wing insulation & frostwall details

The most common earth home design error is leaving a home's foundation uninsulated and the surrounding earth not waterproofed.
Wet earth in contact with your foundation will act as a giant heat sink, constantly pulling energy away from the home. This single design error can be extremely costly in terms of losing heat or cooling potential. Believe me, there's a lot more to proper foundation design than just installing a French drain. Shallow footer design, frost-protected shallow foundations, such as this monolithic slab foundation design, or any foundation for that matter, will have vastly improved energy conservation performance with as little as two feet of perimeter horizontal wing insulation.

Rainwater catchment and cistern tanks are a common addition to sustainable home designs.
Without proper care, cisterns can be unhealthy. You must treat irrigation catchment tanks entirely different from household potable water cistern storage tanks. We suggest using white or yellow 'virgin' poly tanks, not black, and always install manhole risers to the surface for ease of inspection, cleaning, aerating, and filling. Black plastic HDPE high density polyethylene tends to create a foul plastic smell and odd flavor to the water. Black tanks tend to age more gracefully in direct sunlight, but they are not your first choice for a buried cistern tank. Fiberglass is relatively brittle as it ages, making it susceptible to cracking from underground pressures, especially when empty. Plus, the fiber and resin deteriorate eventually, releasing chemicals and particles into the tank water. Concrete has the advantage of being the strongest when empty which is a consideration with underground tanks, but would you drink out of a concrete cup and never wash it? Lining the interior is key to keeping water fresh and sealing the exterior of the tank preserves long-term structural integrity. Always aerate your larger household use tanks or they will go 'sour' and all the filtration in the world will not make it taste very potable. Size your storage considering average rainfall, size of collection area, your personal needs, and availability of trucked-in replacement water. Two inches of rain on a square foot of roof is one gallon of water. With a 1600 square foot roof, that translates to 3200 gallon catchment with a four inch average rainfall per month. Average domestic water usage is about 50 gallons per person per day, with some conservation and minimal outdoor usage. That example would require +/- 3600 gallons of cistern capacity or three 1200 gallon tanks, which is a common tank size that fits in a pickup truck bed. One for potable water both aerated and filtered, one for household washing greywater, and one cistern tank for planterbed watering and backup to household tank, in case of drought.

Interior planterbeds are often the central design focus in an HTM style earth home.
Sloped glass is the only way to grow crops in the winter. We have tomatoes producing inside this HTM twelve months of the year at an 8700 foot elevation in the Rockies. Indoor planterbeds provide heat storage and that ability to grow crops year-round in extreme climates is the keystone of our sustainable design. The 2800 square foot home pictured throughout this web site sets high atop the continental divide in Colorado and maintains comfortable year-round growing temperatures. Fig trees are excellent plant we have found for interior planterbeds. They are insect resistant, prune and grow easily, and produce delicious fruit under the right care. Sugar and snap peas do well, as do most herbs and lettuce crops. Interior planterbeds perform many functions besides being just a great hobby, though. The staggering volume of wet earth in these indoor planterbeds holds an amazing amount of energy, which is the key to high thermal mass housing. Please note that we have gone to above ground planterbeds, unlike the below grade one pictured, to store even more heat in our latest HTM designs. Above grade planterbeds are much more economical to build and a lot easier to access from a kneeling position or wheel chair.

Sloped glass is the only natural passive solar way to grow greenhouse crops in the winter.

Chapter 12 - Interior planterbeds for passively irrigated sloped glass attached greenhouses

With full floor to ceiling glass - be it vertical or sloped - the view is endless.
A key to winter function is allowing passive solar heat gain and natural light to penetrate deep into every room. The front South 'hallway' combines with the planterbed to create a very open, airy feeling throughout an HTM. While it is certainly possible to box-in an HTM to create smaller rooms, we suggest waiting until you are more familiar with the home. Rooms can easily be divided up after the home has been completed. Additional interior partition walls can be non-bearing wood framed, drapes, accordion walls or movable partitions. Keep in mind the sustainable, energy independent nature of your passive solar heating and cooling 'system' is affected by cutting the home up into smaller boxed-in rooms. You are in effect turning the HTM design into more of a conventional home. True, it will still function worlds better than any stick framed home, but it may need some supplemental energy to vent, heat, and cool these land-locked interior rooms.

Sloped glazing in an earthhome sustainable design with planterbed and hanging spider plants for air purification

Living area and kitchen functions are often shared by the front entry room.
The general lack of doorways and windows on three sides makes a basic HTM design extremely adaptable to underground home layouts and fully bermed house plans. You are, of course, free to design your HTM completely above ground with doors and windows on all four exterior walls, but by concentrating all of the glass and entries and exits along the south wall, you simplify and speed construction. This pragmatic approach saves a lot of time and plenty of money on building costs, while maximizing thermal mass and making it easier to create a more air tight, sustainable structure.

HTM passive solar, thermal mass, sustainable design features open floorplans and great depth of living areas

Middle stalls/bays are left open for use as dining room/office/recreation areas.
Wall treatments are not limited, but most clients do tend to avoid drywall. Stucco, latex paint, and natural plasters are finish coat options for dry-stack surface bonding cement walls. Wood panel walls, like those shown here, add a lot of warmth, balancing an otherwise linear stone room. Presenting all four design elements (Earth, Air, Fire & Water) in every room provides optimal harmony of design. Floor treatments are the most varied of all building materials, and anything goes in an HTM, but form needs to follow function for more sustainable designs. For instance, dark tile along the front hallway would absorb more solar gain and do it faster, but lighter colors like this will reflect more ambient light back into the home. In most rooms, the immense amount of thermal mass allows you to choose carpet or hardwood floors with little drop in overall performance, but the front hallway is normally tiled or dark tinted concrete.

Dry stack concrete block SBC walls are nearly impossible to identify afterwards as being a solar house built with concrete blocks

Bathrooms are the most under-utilized area in any home design.
Utility rooms, storage areas and bathrooms are typically arranged along the rear, north wall with clerestory windows supplying plenty of natural light. Larger bathrooms invite reflection and the water element makes for a great meditation area with or without a little waterfall. When placed in the flow across back of home, bathrooms can serve multiple duties with a little extra space: laundry sorting, reading or yoga area, massage chair, nursery/changing station, or potted plant counter. More of an active area in the home's layout and flow.

Holistic housing incorporates all aspects into house plans, balancing earth, air, fire and water - bathrooms are key

Master suites are typically an end room for the sake of privacy.
Concrete block is used for noise control walls along interstates... it will work even better in your bedroom. As with any design question, the answer is always yes, it is possible, but at what functional cost. You need to define what you expect in order to get what you want out of anything. Bedroom preferences are the most varied of any room. Ranging from total dark and quiet for late sleepers to early risers with the sun in their eyes at dawn. Some people like fresh air from operable windows, while some can't stand a draft. Water tubes, glass block walls, drapes, and moveable partitions can be installed for additional privacy and a door can always be added to the hallway. These are all personal taste issues that are hashed out during the design stage and can change as need be to work around your lifestyle and family needs.

Bedrooms in a sustainable design are the most varied choice when altering house plans for more holistic housing

As a matter of policy, we do not release client names or HTM home locations.
Total privacy is a company priority. Referrals are not given for local clients, builders, or architects. has been working for over twenty years educating building professionals and spreading HTM zero-energy house design concepts to as many new people as possible. High thermal mass radiant heating and cooling designs have the potential to massively reduce our carbon footprint. Constantly getting more building professionals comfortable with HTM construction is very important to us and is our company mission statement. Block, whether mortared or dry stack with SBC, and poured-in-place concrete homes and businesses can be found in every town in the world. The common commercial style architecture is what makes an HTM so economical and functionally sensible. Your local Quick-Stop grocery and gas station store was block built for the sake of economy, durability, low maintenance, and strength. Add exterior insulation for heating and cooling retention, and a coat of surface bonding cement structural stucco for waterproofing, strength and beauty, then throw in a little passive solar design and you have an HTM. Any local contractor, engineer, architect, and blueprinter should be more than capable of working on the project since there is nothing really 'alternative' about it. Just some additional passive sustainable design details like shade cloth and wing insulation. You take what free solar gain there is available in your area, noting that sloped glass supplies up to 30 percent more, and supplement the rest, just like any other home.
We trust this free eBook has been helpful. Good luck with your project!

Chapter 1 here is an introduction to HTM design basics with the following pages going into detail
2     photo gallery is packed with photos and commentary from our HTM Home Tour DVD video
3     dry stack surface bonding cement construction photos and sample block layout sketches
4     floor plans is an annotated progression of layout design choices for more functional HTMs
5     roof detail chapter outlines T&G plank-style vented roof decking atop log purlin joist beams
6     sun screens shade panel micro-climate passive cooling design tips and installation tricks
7     heat storage with fiberglass water tanks providing a means to moderate temperature swings
8     earth tubing is a simple, passive method for tempering a household's fresh air return intake
9     solar orientation is important, but HTM designs excel in hot or cold climates alike... anywhere
10   exterior fascia SBC stucco coatings over EPS foam board insulation and sloped glass details
11   wing insulation details and shallow footer, frost-protected perimeter foundation treatments
12   planter beds are central, functional features in greenhouse style HTM home construction
13   links page is packed full of handy research references and relevant manufacturer websites

Passive Solar textbooks all seem to present a rather confusing 'shotgun effect' with a laundry list of options,
all based upon conventional residential stick-frame architectural models... but some do think outside the box.
Malcolm Wells' The Earth Sheltered House: an artist's sketchbook is rich in drawings and inspiration
Robert L. Roy's Earthwood Series includes SBC construction details and curved wall structures
Michael Reynold's Earthship Series for back-to-basics rammed earth how-to-do buildings
Daniel D. Chiras' The Natural House and The Solar House are both excellent textbooks
and with more focus on HTM construction... our free Passive Solar Design eBook

We no longer provide any HTM passive solar home design consultation services.
Our design practice is closed to new clients while working on a new book and personal projects.
And unfortunately, architect and contractor referrals are not possible to for us to provide.
HTM Home Tour DVD is available, but it does not include any personal consultation time.

HTM Home Tour DVD
First half hour walks you through our healthy, sustainable design, HTM passive solar, greenhouse style earthhome featured throughout this website. While not a How-To video, the second half does include some detailed Infiltrator® chamber leach field septic system installation footage. Plus, there's a segment on Sun-Mar® composting toilets.

$10* with free USPS mailing

HTM Home Tour DVD

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Tracking information is emailed following shipment on all orders so client can anticipate delivery date. Custom size shade panels are made-to-order and can take up to ten business days to produce and ship. All other 'stock items' normally ship within three business days. Should you not receive email shipping information, please send a request for tracking number in writing to: Note it can take up to 48 hours for a given tracking number to appear on transportation company website. During this time, shipment status may be listed as "order processed and ready for pickup". Traditionally, this just means the shipment has not yet reached transportation company terminal and scanned after being unloaded from truck that picked those package(s) up. Overdue shipments must be reported to merchant in writing within one week after anticipated delivery date. Cardholder hereby agrees that only two possibilities exist for a shipment that did not arrive as anticipated. Possibility #1) Transportation company shows shipment as still being in-transit. In this case, merchant will file a 'tracer' request on behalf of cardholder with transportation company and they will search for box(es) at all company freight terminals. Cardholder is required to fully cooperate by filling out any forms requested, returning any voice messages left, and replying to any email messages sent by transportation company or merchant. Your patience and consideration is required and greatly appreciated while transportation company attempts to find the shipment. Replacement or refund is authorized solely at merchant discretion. Cardholder is not permitted to cancel order. Cardholder is not permitted to dictate choice of replacement or refund. And cardholder is not permitted to dictate time frame for settlement and ultimate delivery date for merchandise. Possibility #2) Transportation company shows shipment as being delivered. In this case, merchant will file a 'lost shipment' claim on behalf of cardholder with transportation company. A lost shipment claim can take up to two weeks to resolve and unfortunately, the transportation company rarely, if ever, pays the insurance claim. Ideally, we only ship to cardholder, personally, at their residence or business 'home' credit card billing address, but regardless of designated drop site and receiving person and whether or not a signature was required at time of delivery, cardholder is solely responsible for merchandise security after drop is confirmed by transportation company. After transportation company confirms delivery to shipping address, no signature required, there will be no refund or replacement for lost or stolen merchandise for any reason. Cardholder must immediately file a theft report with their local police department for item stolen from property or designated drop site. Cardholder hereby agrees to relinquish any and all right to file a credit card chargeback sales reversal for merchandise lost in transit by transportation company or merchandise reported lost or stolen after delivery is confirmed by transportation company. Should cardholder file a chargeback in violation of this terms of service agreement, cardholder will be held responsible for reimbursement of any and all merchant services processing fees incurred as a result of the frivolous chargeback, which can be anywhere from $35 up to several hundred dollars.

Shade Panel Production

Our commercial grade knitted shadecloth carries a one year manufacturer's replacement warranty against defects in material and workmanship. You can expect at least 5 years of service when installed properly and well over ten years when used seasonally in a temperate climate. Client must inspect shade panels within one week of delivery in order to be able to report any damages. Rips, tears, and aesthetic damage you find more than one week after delivery are not reimbursed or replaced by the freight carrier or Additionally, merchandise that has been installed is not eligible for return or replacement for damage claims. Fabric is knitted polyolefin, primarily high density polyethylene HDPE, specially treated for durability and UV resistance. Wind damage from loose panel whipping, snagging, and abrading against the structure or cable framework is much more harmful in the long run than simple exposure to sunlight. Knit shade material should be installed hung underneath, not pulled across the top of cable or framework, to avoid abrasion and snagging damage. Chemical, fire, heat, abrasion, and snagging damage are not covered under manufacturer warranty. Shade panel warranty inspection returns must be authorized in advance and returned freight prepaid to designated location for visual inspection. will only pay the cost to ship warranty repaired or replaced merchandise back to client after inspection confirms damage was a material or workmanship defect. The following are trade-standard, non-valid reasons for requesting warranty inspection: First, there is no up-down, right-left, top-bottom or front-back reference point for any panel. Panel 'Width and Length' are measured from outside-edge to outside-edge of the sewn perimeter hem at the four corners only. Knit material has inherent tension and flex in the looming process that will resolve aesthetic issues when installed taut with rope lacing. Grommets on one side of panel are unlikely to line up with grommets on the opposite side or from one grommeted pinch pleat to the next. Exact one foot on-center grommet spacing, specific grommeted pinch pleat centering, and special placement on a particular side for grommets is not warranted. Any panel over 12 foot wide may have a noticeable factory knitted loom splice seam without notice in advance since the 20, 26, and 32 foot wide stock roll width fabrics are manufactured on side-by-side looms. We traditionally cover this seam with a grommeted pinch pleat, but it is possible to order plain cloth without a center GPP, per automated quoting form. Aesthetic issues are not warranted. For instance, the White 50% color knitted shade material can sometimes arrive with patches of orange discoloration and spotting as a result of the manufacturing process. This discoloration will dissipate after installation in the sunlight. Shade material may always be slightly wrinkled from rolling onto storage tube or shipping and knit appearance can vary from sample swatches presented and may also vary between various stock widths. Minor aesthetic flaws in knit appearance, stitching, and snags are not a structural panel failure problem and not warranted. Shade material is lockstitch knitted to prevent structural unraveling. Longevity is the same regardless of aesthetic appearance flaws in the fabric knit or perimeter webbing. If need be, one can use needle and thread to pull small flaws together and super-glue sealed. It is not considered a warranty-related defect unless it affects panel performance. Special fire resistant certified shade materials are not available. The finish 'Length' ordered is what we produce by cutting enough fabric to fold hem and GPP. The only time to anticipate deviation in finish dimension purchased is when 'Width' is a stock material width of 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, 26 and 32 foot. Then, finish 'Width' is likely going to be two to three inches less after folding and sewing perimeter hem and any length-wise grommeted pinch pleats. ALL other times, the size panel you request is the finish size we do our very best to produce. Knitted shade netting is inherently difficult to work with due to tension releasing when cut to custom sizes, so trade-standard warranty for free replacement is a four inch tolerance. As measured at four corners, any error of five inches, or more, is warranted for free remake, replacement, or refund at our sole discretion. This accuracy guarantee does not apply to shapes other than rectangles or any panel dimension over 32 foot. Errors of less than five inches are considered for remedy on a case-by-case basis only when the panel has not been installed and can be resold as a new-unused remnant. Special grommet placement requests are not warranted and grommet spacing at exactly one foot on center is not warranted. Click here for knit shade material engineering specifications and product MSDS sheet.

Warranty and Warnings

Merchandise purchased from is covered only under that product's manufacturer warranty. Client is solely responsible for presenting all claims under those warranties directly to the warrantor. makes no consultation, service work, or system design warranties, whether express or implied and shall not in any way be held responsible for any customer misuse of Our products or misunderstanding of any and all of Our designs, whether express or implied. All responsibility and liability for any and all damages caused by viruses contained within the electronic files of this site are disclaimed. All information contained within this site and supplied by any and all consultations, design work and service work is governed by the following information disclaimer. Be aware that septic tank effluent, composting toilet materials, and greywater alike contain bodily fluids and as such are regulated as Hazardous Materials by the Federal government. Such hazardous materials (raw sewage) should be handled only by licensed professionals trained in the proper safety procedures and using proper safety equipment. If you are unsure of the correct handling and safety procedures, please check with your local health department for more detailed information.

Installation and Liability

Merchandise purchased from or through must be installed by a licensed professional installer and in accordance with manufacturer's specifications and local/state/federal electrical, plumbing, health and building department regulations. Building department regulation requirements differ from one town to the next and it is the Client's sole responsibility to ensure compliance. This is particularly important with hard-wired electric kitchen appliances and hoods, gas refrigerators, septic systems, greywater projects, and composting toilets. Even shade panel installations can come under local regulatory scrutiny (pull permits) in some parts of the United States. Client understands that shade panels are not rated for any fire resistance and hereby confirms that no fire resistance has been expressed or implied by Seller for Merchandise. Client is solely responsible for purchasing (pulling), and coordinating all of the inspections for all of the necessary electrical, plumbing, grading, road, health and building permits for their project. Some of these services, as requested, can be provided to Our Summit County, Colorado Clients where is a licensed and insured general Contractor (license number 6) and septic system installer (license number 69). is not an architectural nor an engineering firm. We do Our best to consult on your project, but site specific engineering, load calculations, soil viability testing, and/or custom blueprinting are not included in any consultation service or system package We sell.

Art and Data Release

Client does hereby irrevocably consent to and authorize the anonymous use and reproduction by Us, or anyone authorized by Us, of any and all artwork, digital images, or stories submitted via email, phone or fax. Our primary concern is protection of your privacy. We never release Client information to anyone for any reason, so any use would be purely anonymous. We will not pay a fee or provide compensation of any sort, now or hereafter, for information, solicited or otherwise, that We share. Client hereby agrees to allow reproductions to be presented online or in printed format and hereby gives Us unrestricted right and permission to copyright and use, re-use, publish, and republish artwork, stories or digital images submitted without restriction as to changes or reproduction hereof in color or otherwise, made through any and all media now or hereafter known for illustration, art, promotion, advertising, trade, or any other purpose whatsoever. This agreement shall be binding upon Client and their heirs, legal representatives and assigns.

Information Disclaimer

The information from or through this site and from or through Architerra Enterprises, Inc. (d.b.a. The Natural Home Building source and is provided 'as-is', 'as available', and any and all warranties, express or implied, are disclaimed (including but not limited to the disclaimer of any implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose). We are not an engineering or architectural design firm. We are not licensed electricians or plumbers. We do not accept any legal liability whatsoever for any 'errors and omissions' perceived or otherwise. Any and all consultation given, or website information provided, may contain typos, errors, omissions, problems, or other limitations. Merchandise specifications are subject to change at any time by manufacturer without any advance notice from Our company or the manufacturer. Product specifications and installation instructions are likewise subject to possible error and may change at any time without Our knowledge. Blueprints, sketches, and any written consultation are provided for informational educational purposes only and not intended for construction-ready application without approval first by locally licensed structural engineer and local building department regulations. Our sole and entire maximum liability for any inaccurate information, for any reason, and user's sole and exclusive remedy for any cause whatsoever, shall be limited to the amount paid by the customer for the information received (if any cost was involved). We are not liable for any indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages including but not limited to damages for loss of business, loss of profits, litigation, or the like, whether based on breach of contract, breach of warranty, tort (including negligence), product liability or otherwise, even if advised of the possibility of such damage. The limitations of damages set forth above are fundamental elements of this website, communications, and information provided without such limitations. No representations, warranties or guarantees whatsoever are made as to the accuracy, adequacy, integrity, reliability, currentness, completeness, suitability or applicability of the information to a particular situation. Complaints by Client to any rating agency, company review, or personal referral concerning Merchant or Merchandise in direct disregard of this terms of service agreement are to be considered libel and will be prosecuted as such, if need be.

Consultation and Service

Written and verbal consultation on the specifics of any project is governed by this terms of service agreement, with or without purchase of Merchandise. Technical assistance is different with us because Our staff members live with what We sell. Housing, septic, composting and greywater systems all include free on-going consultation, so We'll take the time to answer your questions and ensure your project is a success. At the very least, We strive to save you money by avoiding costly mistakes, both short and long term. If We don't have an answer to your question right on the spot, We'll take the time to research it further and get back to you. We can consult on the phone, if you wish, but email allows us to much more completely answer your questions with sketches and links to related articles. Keeping everything in writing is a sure way to avoid any confusion with "you said he said" situations later. Our sustainable housing products are low-tech in nature, but their design is typically complicated by the seemingly endless installation variables for unique locations and applications. Any and all consultation (blueprints, photos, written word and sketches) purchased from are the intellectual, copyrighted property of HTM house plans, septic system packages and greywater kit components Were designed and priced for the typical home and based upon the average soil type. Whether or not your local building department requires stamped engineer approval, you are well advised to take sample blueprints, sketch plans, and system consultation suggestions to a local professional engineer (PE). Local PEs are familiar with your soil type and more aware of unique building codes and concerns in your area. Most importantly, a local PE is readily available for the necessary site visits. your PE is then responsible for preparing a folder of notes and details which confirm the structural integrity, viability and liability for your project. is not an architectural design nor an engineering firm. We do Our best to consult on your project, but site specific engineering, load calculations, soil viability testing and/or custom blueprinting are not included in any consultation service or system package We sell. Communication is intended only for the paid Client recipient(s) and may be confidential and/or legally privileged and must be treated as such in accordance with state and federal laws. Any disclosure, copying, distribution or action taken in reliance on the content is strictly prohibited.

Fiberglass Water Tubes

Water Tube and Cap ("Item") is manufactured for Client on special order basis by an independent company ("Manufacturer"). Manufacturer's warranty and guarantee, and special terms and conditions of sale and delivery apply to this Item. No warranty or guarantee is provided, expressed, or implied by Merchant, Merchant and Manufacturer do not assume any liability or responsibility for damage in transit. Only the transportation company is responsible for damage in transit. Before signing and receiving Item from transportation company, Client should demand to see packing list from Item shipment. If shipment is short Item (for instance: three caps, not four) or damaged (any Item defects), refuse the goods until the transportation agent notes the shortage or damage in writing on the freight receipt waybill. Always require a copy of the annotated waybill with shortage or damage noted in writing and signed/initialed by driver.Watch for hidden damage and inspect all Items fully before signing and accepting the shipment from a freight carrier. Client signature is testament that Item arrived in the proper amount and in undamaged condition. Hidden damage or shortage (anything found after delivery) is Client's sole responsibility to file claim with transportation company. Merchant and Manufacturer do not assume any responsibility or liability for Item damage during/after installation. Manufacturer guarantees Item is up to its established standard of manufacture as to material and workmanship. In all claims, liability is limited to replacement of the invoice value of any Item claimed to be defective. Client assumes all risk and liability whatsoever resulting from the use of such Item, whether used singly or in combination with other substances. The materials purchased hereunder (Item) shall be examined and tested upon receipt thereof, and before the materials are used and within thirty days from such receipt, Client shall notify Merchant in writing of any claims on account of quality thereof. Failure to so notify Merchant shall constitute a waiver of all claims with respect to Item, and in any event the use of Item by Client shall be deemed to mean satisfactory performance on the Item and Merchant. No claim of any kind (whether as to Item delivered or for non-delivery of Item) shall be greater in amount than the purchase price of Item covered hereby with respect to which any damages are claimed. Merchant and Manufacturer will accept no returns unless previously authorized in writing with Return Merchandise Agreement. Item returned without RMA written permission is liable to non-acceptance and return at expense of Client. RMA will specify 25% restocking fee on Item, plus deduction for original cost of crating and shipping, plus Client is responsible for all return shipping arrangements and all related expenses. There are no promises, agreements, or understandings between Client and Merchant and Manufacturer not contained in this document. Should you use your own form to make a purchase based on a price quote from Merchant, the conditions contained herein shall be deemed to be incorporated in said order or contract or invoice.