Project: Siegel House Case Study
The Siegel House
Village Homes, Davis, California
House, spring 1996,
view from southeast
As part of the class Thermal Aspects of Building Design at UC Berkeley, a group of
five undergraduate and graduate students performed a field evaluation of this passive
solar residence--the Siegel House--located in the Village Homes subdivision at
Davis, California. Through this investigation, we found that the Siegels are very happy
with their house and the Village Homes subdivision, but that some of the passive solar
design features in their house have not lived up to their expectations. In this report, we
describe some of the home's successes and failures, and how we discovered and evaluated
Our objective for this evaluation was to get a feel for how well the house is
"working" today, 18 years after it was built. So, before getting into the
nitty-gritty of our investigation, we posed some broad questions with which to frame our
study. Some of the questions we went into the Siegel House asking included the following.
- Is the building still being used as a passive solar home?
- Are the residents happy with the design?
- Does the house save energy compared to conventional houses?
- What passive solar design strategies were part of the original design and how well have
the worked over the years?
- What changes have been made to the house and how have they affected the performance of
a tour of the Siegel House
These questions boil down to one simple goal for our project, to find out the story
that the Siegel House has to tell.
We approached the field evaluation of this building with the attitude fostered by the Vital Signs Project, that of "guerilla monitoring."
In other words, we used simple, quick measurements and interviews to assemble a
big-picture understanding of this building. We examined its architectural, lighting, and
mechanical systems toward the goal of seeing how they affect energy use, occupant
well-being, and architectural spacemaking. Our intention was not to perform a detailed and
exhaustive analysis of this residence, but rather to draw conclusions through analyzing
some simple quantitative data (time-series temperature measurements taken at various
places in the house) and qualitative information gathered through interviews and research.
We adopted this approach partly because we did not have access to expensive monitoring
equipment, but mainly because we wanted to stay focused on larger questions for which
exhaustive data did not seem appropriate. In fact, we placed our temperature sensors
around the Siegel House before we had even hammered out our final list of hypotheses to
test. Using the broad questions mentioned above as a guide, we positioned sensors to give
us data from throughout the house. We then met as a group back in Berkeley to figure out
how to use this data.
While this method may seem a little backwards, it allowed us to explore the house,
individually develop many options for investigations, and place our sensors without having
to make more than one trip to Davis, an hour drive away from Berkeley.
name plate at the entrance
to Village Homes
We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to examine this house. As a part of the Village
Homes subdivision, it belongs to one of the first efforts to demonstrate that energy
efficient houses do not have to be uncomfortable and ugly. In fact, the developers and
homeowners associated with Village Homes prove just the opposite--the houses there are
pleasant places in which to live and, in many cases, beautiful homes.
Residences like the Siegel House are often discussed at conferences and in publications
dedicated to energy efficiency, but there has been little follow-up since their completion
to see how the houses, and the ideas behind them, have fared over the years. We hope that
this project takes a small step toward beginning to evaluate their failure or success.
We thank the Siegels for their kind cooperation in our sometimes disorganized efforts.
Their help was outstanding and indispensable, and their generosity in opening their home
to a bunch of college students inspiring.
Thanks also to Professor Ed Arens for arranging
this great project and helping us to see it through.
A Roadmap for this Report
A map of the Siegel House
Case Study web pages
This report is broken into three main sections.
First, we provide some background which describes the Village Homes
subdivision and the Passive Solar Features of the Siegel
House. Physical changes to the building and some history of the Siegels in their house are
also described here. Links to other Village Homes information on the internet are
Secondly, in the Our Investigation section, you'll find a
description of the methods we used to gather information about the Siegel House. Also
included here are our five Hypotheses and the analysis that
goes along with each.
Lastly, in the Conclusions and Summary section, we pull
together the findings from this study and present some ideas for Further
Investigations of the Siegel House.
To read this entire document, follow the "next" buttons at the bottom of each
page. These will take you sequentially through the whole report.
Please read on to find out more about our investigation of the Siegel House