Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Reviews from Home Owners & Builders
From the first sun-inspired home built in the 1980's to the ones currently being built, Sun Plans has received hundreds of unsolicited comments from the home owners expressing their joy and delight at living in a home warmed and brightened by the sun. Those unmeasurable qualities, equal or exceed the more tangible benefits of low energy bills.
For thousands of years, passive solar occupants have been enjoying and bragging about the comforts of their living spaces. Passive solar design is NOT new. When American Indians built housing, they often chose a south facing hill or cliff. In the case of the cliff dwellers in the hot southwest, the living areas were built within the sunny front spaces that would receive low winter sun while the cliff overhang above shades those same south spaces in summer. The thermal mass of the surrounding earth absorbed the sun, which minimized overheating and kept the spaces warm long into the night.
Customers share enthusiasm
"The amount of sunlight in the rooms. The lower heating bills are great, but the feeling from the sun's light and not having to use electric lights is hard to describe." - Pam and Paul, Solstice
"We built a Sun Plans home in 2002 and love it. We wanted a home that felt like a vacation...and it does. Every day" - K.C., Sun Dance Cottage
"...we absolutely love this house and are so very glad we found Sun Plans. They were great to work with and always available to answer questions. They take pride in their work and are passionate about what they do."- Suzanne Prince, Prince Charming
"..LOVE it! It has performed amazingly well. We've had an exceptionally cold winter and it's so nice to come home to a cozy, warm house - often over 70 degrees when it's been below zero all day (& the heat is free!) -Conni, French Cowgirl
"I'm very satisfied. The Sun Plans book was a great tool for additional information as needed and [I] would recommend anyone ordering plans to get a copy of this as well." - Karen, Webster House Reversed
"First of all, thanks so much for the sketches...we did not expect to see the drawings this soon. The sketches were a pleasant surprise (although you did tell us you get pretty close to your customers' desires on the first pass). We could see all of our layout thoughts and exterior appearance ideas in the drawings; it is exciting for us....as our "dream house" is starting to develop....while we were walking today, we talked about you and how happy we are that you are able to work with us on this project." - Steve and Peggy, Chapel Ridge
"I love everything about the house, but my favorite space is the main living area that contains the kitchen, atrium dining room and living room. Bill and I spend most of our time here when we are on our own, and it is also a wonderful place for family gatherings --the open concept let me have a dining room table that can expand to feed 14 people. In fact, with no walls, the space is very flexible." - Sandy, Atrium 3
"We are thrilled with the design and plans, and we love the house. It is very bright, and the passive solar design works beautifully. In summer 2008 we received the city of Lakewood's Sustainability Award." - Dale and Leslie, Equinox 3
From a letter published in Mother Earth News Feb/Mar 2013 after the interview with the Sun Plans architect, Debra Rucker Coleman, was published in Mother Earth News Oct/Nov 2012:
"...have been more than pleased. The house holds an almost constant temperature, and our electric bills have averaged about $60 (per month). We cool the house as needed with an air conditioner and use an efficient wood stove for most of our (supplemental) heat. This house is amazing and we absolutely love it. This design works very well. - Gloria, Southern Cypress
"...were fabulous to work with in the design of RISE - our passive solar home. Sean and I wanted to build a passive solar, sustainable green design home for years. We searched for the perfect lot, and once found, we searched for the perfect home design. We quickly found Sun Plans, as 100% of their focus is passive solar. We bought Debbie's book, The Sun-Inspired House, and found elements of houses that we loved - open floor plans, lofts, atriums, towers, airlock entry ways, and more. You can buy a plan, adapt a plan or work with Debbie on a new design. We thought we could adapt, but soon learned that we had some customized aspects that would lead to the creation of RISE - primarily the clerestory. The design process took about a year from beginning to end, and was done 100% through email and phone calls. Debbie was wonderfully responsive, not only to us as clients, but to our builder, structural engineer, energy analysts, and more...we were selected to be featured in Home Power magazine." - Rita, RISE
"...And really, you made our dream house come true, and I must say it looks EVEN BETTER than the house that we were dreaming about :)) Thank you." - Biljana (and Nenad), Sunny Dreams
"Debbie was a joy to work with, and is an expert in passive solar design...we talked by phone and sent emails throughout the process of adapting one of her...designs to our needs and preferences....The house has over 3,000 square feet of living space, and our bill for the first month was $104. The orientation of the home, the location of the windows, the tight insulation system, and a geothermal heat pump combined to make the house work as we hoped it would.
Another reason that I chose to work with Debbie is that her designs have personality - nooks and crannies and angles that make every interior view pleasant and interesting. During the design process, she asked me questions that helped me define and then convey my thoughts and ideas to her clearly...I watched my dreams become reality...our cost...was much lower than standard architectural fees would have been". - Kathy, Moorhaus Cottage 4 (Smaller sun-inspired homes can use mini-split heat pump systems instead of geothermal.)
"We are enjoying the Cottage Atrium and I am really happy about the thermal performance. It maintains an average during the day of about 12 degrees F above the outside temp. When Mr. Sun hits the SE windows about 8:15AM or so, that side of the house really starts warming up nicely." - Sam, Cottage Atrium
"..it's performing exactly as I hoped this winter. We've had some bitter, bitter cold days (I mean where the temperatures didn't get above minus 10!) and the heat hasn't gone on at all while the sun was out... and then on some milder days (temps in the 40's) I've had to open a window because it was actually getting too warm. We're all enjoying sitting in the bay window getting nice and toasty (and sleepy) on some quiet weekends...I don't have records quite good enough, but it looks like I'm using about a third to a half of the electricity I used in my former house (which was about the same size). Not needing any lights on during the day, combined with all the Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent lights seems to make a huge difference...So all in all, I am VERY happy with the house." - Emily, Prairie Dog
"I LOVE our house! The passive solar works wonderfully. People have questioned why Steve and I have such a 'big' house, for 'just the two of us'. I don't think we have a 'big' house. The main floor is 2100 s.f. and that's where we live. The south side of the house is the living space - which includes the sunroom and morning room (where I moved all my tomato and pepper plants before the frost hit--so I'll have fresh tomatoes for another two months). The morning room is my office space, too....The kitchen is wonderful! ...I LOVE MY HOUSE!" - Peggy (and Steve), Garden Atrium
Ok, this one has a little drama, but what the heck: "...I am completely and totally in love. You're a brilliant architect. The house not only works incredibly well as a passive solar marvel, but the layout is so right for our family! The contractors come by now with their mouth wide open and confess to me that they never thought it would work. They not only can't believe how beautiful it looks, but they can't believe we don't have to use the heat! It is so warm...and so light." - Amy, Northern Sun
Builders like sun-inspired homes
"The Solstice was built for Bill and Nicole....It turned out great and they are experiencing a comfortable, self-regulating house with very low electric bills, in the $40-60 per month range depending on the season. Bill's professional woodworking shop is running off the same meter, too. They have great cross breezes and the passive solar works like a dream." - Vern Little, Iron Eagle Builders, NC (previously with Anchorage Builders, Chapel Hill, NC when this house was built) Solstice
From Rachel & Mark Bighley, Mark Bighley Construction, Silver City, NM (They are currently planning to build yet another Sun Plans home this year.) "We specialize in high-performance homes, which includes passive solar designs. We have built [three] of Sun Plans designs. Our customers absolutely love them. They are extremely efficient...one of our customers came to us with a plan they had drawn up. They were not excited about it. I felt that was not good. So we gave them our Sun Plan book and they finally decided on one they felt was close to what they wanted. I contacted Debbie and we went through the process of making the changes. It was so smooth and easy, plus very reasonable to accomplish. They are so happy with their home. We love Sun Plans and are so grateful for the source of passive solar homes!" - Rachel, Sunset Bungalow
REVIEWS