How to Meet California’s “Solar-Ready” Rule for New Subdivisions | Home Design Find

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How to Meet California’s “Solar-Ready” Rule for New Subdivisions

California just passed a law that all new homes in subdivisions of ten or more must include a 250 square foot “solar zone” on the roof.

california solar home architecture

This area of the roof, oriented towards the sun, must be free of pipes, vents, obstructions and architectural elements that shadow it – the way the vents do here.

Here’s some ways this can be done, yet still have the “olde worlde” look that the home building market seems so set on.

Michigan net zero solar house architecture

There are some traditional styles – like this – that do have the simple beautiful roof shapes that look good with solar – and produce real energy.

2011Middlebury College Solar Decathlon architecture

The key is to design the roof shape around the 250 square foot area that will produce power. Rimmed by fire marshall’s three-foot setback down the ridges and along the spine, this straightforward solution would still have these classic good looks.

net zero home with solar panels architecture

By keeping all the small fussy architectural detail on one plane (to the street in this case) at least one roof plane can be made simple enough to fully meet the regulation on one surface.

But imagine this clean zing of blue solar panels – set against a white standing seam metal roof.

powdercoat solar trim match roof architecture

Solar and tile can provide great textural contrast. An entire solar array on a roof could be outlined with a thin trim edging frame that matches the roof.

Solar Roof architecture

Here’s an example that makes good use of the textural contrast of the shiny blue solar panels and a bright white stucco, with the matte red of terracotta tile.

Probably this is an “after the fact” solar installation, but this gives an idea of how to use the best colors and textures for solar panels to play off against each other.

solar home Idaho architecture

Combining the clean finish of standing seam metal roofs gives a sleek look that works better with solar panels aesthetically, yet can still reference traditional style homes.

typical subdivision home not solar ready architecture

The McMansions being built in California, involving too many tiny roof elements is incompatible with solar, technically, as well as aesthetically. Schmaltzy “olde world” fussy roofs do not go with the modern clean shiny blue of solar panels. It is an unhappy marriage.

You wouldn’t dock an iPod in a Faberge egg. The two just aesthetics don’t mix.

Eichler Tract homes solar architecture

But subdivisions in California have not always been so antithetical to solar. The wonderful “Dutch hat” tract homes from the 1960s by Eichler still look great. And how perfect this clean roof shape is for solar.

The street-side entry can be on either the gable side – as  here – or the long spine side, depending on the street orientation. For builders who are convinced solar panels are ugly, putting the long spine of this roof on the street side would conceal them, since the gable is so far back it would not be seen at street level.

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