It looks just like a flying saucer that has settled into a hill. Known as Terrasol Farms (terra for earth and sol for sun), the saucer-cumhouse, designed by Frank Fracasso, has seven-eighths of its circumference underground.
Three subsurface greenhouses are arranged around the rim with only their transparent roofs aboveground. The acrylic dome completes the out-of-this-world look.
While the shape may get the most attention, the functioningm of Terrasol Farms is more important. Its energy self-sufficiency is based on simple, well-known principles, such as indirect gain of solar heat through greenhouses (in other words, passive solar heat), and the utilization of the stable earth temperature to modify climatic changes.
At a depth of 10 feet, Earth has an average temperature of 55 degres F, the year around. This energy factor makes a major contribution toward heating the living space in the winter and cooling it in the summer.
The remaining heat necessary for comfort is collected and stored in the three large pit greenhouses, which open to the house through glass interface doors that are opened as desired to let in the solar heat. These "sun spaces" also supply abundant natural light and enough growing area to make the most enthusiastic gardener happy.
And that's it -- no complicated machinery, no expensive gadgetry. In effect, it's a completely natural, free way to stay warm.
The floor plan supplements the energy features of this unusual house. The center is open, with the counter-level kitchen in the middle and dining, living, and family areas around it. The family area receives light from the greenhouse doors and 15 skylights which open to the dome above.
The dome, wit its 360-degree view, is reached by way of a circular open stairway. It is a marvelous sun-room -- warm on the coldest, clear day of winter. The bedrooms, two baths, and utility room are conventionally unenclosed and are arranged around the edge of the large 3,300-square-foot home.
The saving on heat bills is 100 percent. Indeed, the various energy tax credits, both state and federal, apply so as to cut the cost of construction. Low maintenance as well as food-production possibilities further enhance the financial picture.
The designer, Frank Fracasso, reports that construction costs were 25 percent lower than for a comparable conventional house, a saving effected by not having to install a heating system and by having limited windows and interior walls, almost no siding, and no basement or attic. Also, the dome was built on the site at a considerable saving.
For futher information, write to Frank Fracasso, Terrasol Systems Inc., Dept. M, RD 2, Box 416-G, Newton, N.J. 07860.