Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Floor 1
2,447 sf
Entry Faces
South Glass
Northern Lights 4
The Northern Lights 4 is an updated, rustic, high mass version of the original Northern Lights Sun Plan with its long-time proven energy performance. Timber columns, a front porch timber truss and wood lintels add western touches. Stacked stone blends the home to the land while the simple and practical stucco type coating is a natural and inexpensive siding for the ICF walls behind. The wrap-around front porch on the cool northeast side works especially well for those who enjoy shady summer evenings outside, but reversing the home would be recommended for those who preferred sunset viewing.
The house is awesome. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I generally turn the heat on for the season in mid-November and off in mid-March. We might have a few cool mornings in the house before and after that, but the wood stove warms it right up.- Kerry and Cheryl, Cold Climate
First Floor
From the front porch, a large airlock entry also serves as an art gallery with abundant wall space that is often missing in rooms that are open with lots of windows. A single glass door opens into the large earthy great room with wood ceilings and a large stone hearth. Next, the expanse of south windows is almost breathtaking. The kitchen is open to the sunny breakfast corner and the large great room. Its deep window box has enough room for several plants, but even the deep window sills in the south rooms can hold many flowers and herbs.
Two of the bedrooms will be sunny year-round while the northwest one may be the best choice for those who prefer less direct sun in winter. It may make a better office if computers or valuable books or art work are to be displayed.
The large garage has one small and two large overhead doors facing the side. The "L" shaped area forms a courtyard-like space for the front walkway. The separate mechanical room is nestled close to the house. The home is entered via the family entry large enough for boots and coats. The stairs up to the attic are designed to be nicely finished. Only after passing through the door at the top of the stairs, is the unfinished attic evident. The nearby laundry is ideally placed close to all bedrooms.
Construction Info
The great room, dining and breakfast have vaulted ceilings with beams dropped below the roof trusses. A wood ceiling here carries through with the rustic exterior of the home. In the dining area, dropped cross beams add elegance to the ceiling intended to have lighter white ceiling in between. The rest of the home has 9' high flat ceilings. Insulated concrete walls (ICF) and concrete floors throughout make this a very high mass home which keeps the temperatures very stable year-round. While the floors on the south side should be covered in stone, brick, tile or stained and polished concrete, the floors in the north rooms can be wood.
Modification Ideas
Since these ideas may affect energy performance and structural integrity, they should only be undertaken with professional assistance.
  • Turn the dining area into a study or bedroom 4
  • Make the ceilings all flat to allow for a walk-in attic and/or large entertainment area the entire width of the house
  • Close off the laundry from the family entry
  • Make 12" the walls double studs filled with blown insulation for a super energy-efficient wall system.
  • Increase the south glass by making the windows taller
Construction Drawings
For this plan, the following are included with Construction Prints and CAD Files:
  • Schematic Site Plan
  • Slab On Grade Foundation
  • Floor Plan including Attached Garage
  • Exterior Elevations
  • Building Section
  • Kitchen Elevations
  • Typical Wall Detail
  • Schematic Electrical Plan
  • Schematic Roof Framing
Comments and Photos
Thanks Kerry and Cheryl for sharing the lovely photos of the interior and exterior of your home!
They live off the grid in a cold climate.

"The house is awesome. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I generally turn the heat on for the season in mid-November and off in mid-March. We might have a few cool mornings in the house before and after that, but the wood stove warms it right up.

The solar panels provide all the power. I transitioned to all LED lights (now that the light quality is the same as incandescent) and that made a considerable difference in power consumption once the sun goes down.

Our backup generator will start about 6 times during the winter. Generally, after a few days of clouds/snow and generally when the well decides to come on the fill the cistern (our biggest power draw).

Favorite spots are probably the east porch, great place to get outside and enjoy coffee in the morning or a cocktail in the afternoon. It gets enough sun and is protected from the prevailing breeze such that anything above 40 degrees seems comfortable in the winter. Always cool and shady in the summer.

We like the open kitchen. The combination of the kitchen, great room, nook and counter are a gathering place that visitors seem to really enjoy. They would rather gather/stay/eat at the counter and nook rather than in the formal dining room. In the winter, the wood stove is a favorite in the great room. Interesting that if the sun has been out (even when its below zero outside) we sometimes can't start a fire at night, because it's just too warm in the house

Regarding fresh air: "We leave the master bath window and the window above the sink cracked open almost all year. It provides a nice flow of fresh air through the house." (Sun Plans comment, HRV's are generally recommended to provide fresh air into a home that will be sealed up most of the time.)

It amazes us how comfortable, efficient, and self-sustaining a house can be. Not sure why people continue to build the old-fashioned way. There outa be a law!!"
When asked about temperatures and comfort,they responded:

"...we had several record days above 90 and that resulted in the highest temperature we have ever seen inside. During that hot spell, we saw the inside temperature reach 78 degrees.

We bought some really expensive window coverings for the south windows Turns out we almost never use them. In the summer, the sun is above the soffits and the house stays cool. (Sun Plans comment: that means the south windows were in shade.)

In the winter, we generally drop the coverings if we know the temperature will drop to around zero or below outside. Otherwise we don't use them. We only see a few degree drop in internal temperature overnight, I believe because of the stored heat coming from the floor and thermal wall. In the dead of winter, when the sun angle is low and sunlight is reaching well into the house on a sunny day, we have seen 75 degrees inside. We just crack a few windows or open a door. It feels great when it's below zero outside with 2 or 3 feet of snow on the ground and we can stay in the 70's with the heating system off.

I have the heat system come on at 5 AM and is set to 68 degrees. I have the heat system turn off at 9 AM. If the sun is out, it raises the temperature and takes care of keeping the house warm the rest of the day. If no sun, we use the wood stove. We installed a hybrid Hearthstone stove with cast iron frame and soapstone sides and top (I would recommend the stove to anyone). 1 or maybe 2 loads of wood will heat the house for the day. Other than the great room and hallway, I have all other heat zones turned off unless we leave for a period or have visitors / use the dining room." - Kerry and Cheryl