Books: "The Solar House" – by Anthony Denzer

Tony Denzer recently wrote to see if we were interested in writing something about his new book, “The Solar House – Pioneering Sustainable Design.” We are glad we came across this pertinent work, especially for those wanting to know more about the history of solar.

As Denzer aptly points out, “Few people are aware of the influential experimental solar houses which were constructed during the previous four decades, beginning with the work of masters of twentieth-century architecture such as Richard Neutra, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Paolo Soleri, Louis Kahn, Pietro Belluschi, Edward Durell Stone, and Harwell Hamilton Harris, and continuing with more recent innovations like the German Passivhaus movement and the Heliotrope, the first house to produce more energy than it consumed, and the U.S.-based Solar Decathlon, conceived as a living demonstration laboratory and recently expanded to include contests in Europe and China.



On his website, he writes:

“In about 2005 I became interested in the concept of ‘the solar house’ and its history.  Initially I understood the solar house as a product of the 1970s, and many people still do so.  I learned about some fascinating experimental solar houses which were constructed earlier.  As I continued to dig, I learned the term ‘solar house’ had been coined in 1940, and that there were many architects and engineers concerned with using the sun to save energy decades before the energy crisis and the green building movement.

“This book reconstructs the little-known history of the solar house before 1973, with in-depth analyses of all the major solar houses.  It explores the evolution of the scientific understanding of solar heating, including both passive and active technologies.  It also discusses the solar house as a social movement, with many of its leading figures concerned about trends in building energy use and the dependence on fossil fuels in the midcentury period.  The book concludes with an overview of developments since 1973, including the superinsulation and Passivhaus movements, and Jimmy Carter’s solar White House.  It also concludes with a look at how the solar house is conceived today.

“Architects, engineers and firms who are examined in-depth are: George Fred Keck, Hoyt Hottel, Henry N. Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright, Arthur T. Brown, George Löf, Libbey-Owens-Ford, Maria Telkes, Eleanor Raymond, Lawrence B. Anderson, John Yellott, Bridgers & Paxton, Victor and Aladar Olgyay, Felix Trombe, Masanosuke Yanagimachi, Emslie Morgan, Norman Saunders, William Shurcliff, Harold Hay, Peter van Dresser, David Wright, Steve Baer, and Karl Boer.”

Pick up this book and share the title with plenty of folks. It’s worth the time.