Can This Home Be Greened? A Mesa, Arizona, Craftsman Bungalow

Jennifer Duff calls in the eco experts to help her green her home and create a more welcoming place for her monthly community-building get-togethers.

| March/April 2011

  • Jennifer Duff wants to make her home more efficient and less resource-heavy.
    Photo By Carol Venolia
  • A fire spinner wows the crowd at one of Jennifer Duff's monthly community gatherings for friends and neighbors.
    Photo By Carol Venolia

From her 1,240-square-foot, 100-year-old Craftsman bungalow, Jennifer Duff can walk downtown and to her favorite coffee house, yoga studio and wine bar. “It feels like Mayberry within a big city,” she says. Once a month, Jennifer throws a party to encourage community and self-expression among old friends and new acquaintances—the likes of which Mayberry’s never seen. Musicians play on her front porch, fire spinners perform on the lawn, and people from divergent backgrounds share libations and conversation. Jennifer wants to spruce up her backyard for these events, build a guest house and garage, and make her home more efficient and less resource-heavy in the process. 

In Jennifer’s hot desert climate, overheating is a big issue. A porch shading the south-facing front of her house and a pecan tree that shades the roof until noon help cool the house considerably. An African sumac tree partially shades the backyard, but the west side of the house—the hottest side—is unprotected. The hot afternoon sun hits the west-facing single-pane windows all day, baking the interior.

Don Titmus of Four Directions PermaCulture suggests several ways to minimize the heat sink:

■ Replace some of the concrete driveway with compacted decomposed granite, allowing water to percolate into the soil.
■ Add taller, denser plantings to the existing west-side oleander hedge for more afternoon shading.
■ Build a trellis over the driveway to shade the house and parking area.
■ Add tall, dense trees northwest of the house, where the hot summer sun sets.

Backyard Bonanza 

“Stacking functions” is a permaculture term for accomplishing several things in one gesture. Titmus put this to work in Jennifer’s backyard, where a proposed western shade trellis could also act as a welcoming gateway to the backyard social space. The existing African sumac tree in the backyard provides both shade and a space-defining umbrella for partiers, and placing the rainwater storage tank near the entrance to the social space shows off a clever rainwater-collection system.

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