Taliesin West, in Arizona, has a $200,000 annual energy bill. In some ways, the late Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home is already environmentally sensitive. It's constructed from mostly local materials. Wright spread the practice of situating a house based on the geography and weather. Many of his homes (including this one) have large windows and widespread roof overhangs which block the heat from the high summer sun but allow the heat and light of the low winter sun inside.
These passive energy-saving strategies go a long way then and now, but despite these measures Wright didn't have access to the sort of technology we do now: solar panels, more efficient light bulbs, and protective window and roof coatings. Also, less insulation was used than is standard now, and the building's HVAC systems and wiring are practically antique.
To see in detail all the ways energy was being lost, spent, and overproduced, Big Green Zero of Phoenix did an energy audit. Based on the information gained, the Frank Lloyd Wright foundation will be making extensive improvements over the next couple years. Solar panels will be placed in another section of the house's property so that they don't affect its appearance. Roofing and windows with much better performance but matching textures and colors are being chosen. Energy-efficient light bulbs now come in spectrums that match traditional bulbs, so their replacements will preserve the same ambiance.
To read more about Energy Assessing go to LGA Studios' blog of last year, or you can read more about the Taliesin project on the Architectural Record website. Larry Gilland is a certified Energy Rater, passionate about improving homes for the environment and for their owners.