|Property of Jane and Stefan Shoup|
The Sun House - Big Falls, WI 54926
The original house on a 32' x 32' footprint was built in 1980, using passive solar design together with an “envelope” structure. An unusual building, it rises over 30' on the south-facing front, incorporating 76 windows into a three-story decked sun space, which provides a year-round solarium/greenhouse. The interior house, a house within a house, was nestled inside a double roof, double back wall, and crawl space, completing a connected loop for air circulation from the sun space. Ducts with fan assist were also included to better facilitate circulation. In actual operation, not much natural circulation occurred. The original owners reported that the house worked well mainly because of super insulation. A wood stove provided cloudy-day heat, and some electric baseboards were installed for backup when the owners were away for extended periods. An attached shed entry and garage were later installed. The original house also has an elevator.
Renovations and additions by the current owners with gimme shelter construction, inc. (Amherst, WI) were begun in July 1998 with essential completion in February 1999. The intent was to retain the charm and utility of the original house while enlarging certain rooms and adding rooms to double the total space. In the original house the space between the exterior and interior roofs was filled with insulation to a collective +R60 rating. Warm air which collects in the top of the sun space is still drawn off by fans through ducts, and discharges on the first floor of the interior house. On typical sunny winter days the house requires little supplemental hear, as heat delivered from the top of the sun space reaches 85 to 110 degrees. The walls of the house are of 2 x 6 construction strapped with 2 x 2s, providing a full 7 inches of insulation, which not only reduces heat loss in winter but keeps the house cool in summer.
The additions feature eastward (3-story) and westward (2-story) extensions. The eastward extension enlarged the second-floor kitchen and 3 bedroom/offices, and added a mud room. The larger westward extension includes a master bedroom, bath, and heated garage on the first floor, and a cathedral-ceilinged living room on the second floor. A total of 31 new windows were installed. Ten major windows in the living room and bedroom are equipped with window quilts to attenuate heat loss on winter nights and heat gain on hot summer afternoons.
The main supplementary heat source consists of two large masonry stoves mounted one above the other in the master bedroom and living room. The lower stove has a hot water heat exchanger piped into an in-floor hydronic system to utilize excess heat. The upper stove features an oven above the firebox, a heated bench, built-in wood storage, and decorative stones shelves. Passive solar intake and/or wood-burning stoves usually provide all of the heat requirement. Five active solar panels are integrated with a backup propane boiler/hydronic system to provide hot water and additional space heating. The hydronic heat system has 11 controlled zones to provide heat where needed throughout the old and new portions of the house on very cold and/or cloudy winter days. A 24,000 BTU wall-mounted, mini-split air conditioner provides temperature and humidity control during extended hot spells.
About 1900 sq. ft. of rustic hickory hardwood floor was installed. The kitchen cabinets are of custom rustic hickory construction. Hickory/walnut staircases rise behind each of the two masonry stoves, connecting all three floors. The upper staircase culminates in a skylight-lit platform atop the living room masonry stove. The platform connects to the third floor library/office space in the original house. All window, door and baseboard trim is in walnut. The house is serviced by a large air-to-air heat exchanger and has a central vacuum system. Many of the lamps use long-life, high-efficiency fluorescent bulbs.
Extensive decking surrounds three sides of the second floor, together with a deck walkway and insulated raceway for heat and water to a Japanese-style guest teahouse behind the Sun House on the path to the creek, falls, and swimming hole. A small third floor deck off the sun space provides a panoramic view. The entire house has a double standing-seam galvanized roof and is sided in gray-stained rough cedar. The old attached garage has been converted to a heated shop. The total house is now about 3800 sq. ft.
The property consists of 147 acres of wooded and open land with rugged granite outcrops traversed by Spaulding Creek, and fronts on the Little Wolf River. It is located just outside Big Falls (pop. 84), the smallest incorporated village in Wisconsin.