Casa Aguila will arguably be the most advanced home ever built in San Diego County, looking to achieve many firsts for our region. It will be San Diego's first Certified Passive House, seek the County's first onsite wastewater treatment permit, seek the County's first permit to utilize all collected rainwater for all indoor water use, and strive for eventual grid-disconnection through utilization of battery power, Solar PV, and a 45-foot wind turbine (the blades alone are 17 feet tall!).

The project is located in Ramona, CA and is named for the Golden Eagles which frequently fly over the property.

Building Features & Systems

The Most Advanced Home Built in San Diego County

·        CLIMATE: Though the home is a Passive House, sophisticated insulating and heating/cooling systems have been incorporated into the home.  The location has an unusual desert-like climate where temperatures are sometimes below freezing in the winter and often in excess of 100-degrees in the summer.  Additionally, typical of deserts the diurnal swings are dramatic: temperatures between nighttime and daytime are much greater than they are for most of the rest of the country.

·        WALL INSULATION: Double-stud walls filled with approximately 16” thick of GreenFiber cellulose for R-56 insulation.

·        ROOF INSULATION:  Roof framing bays filled with 5.5” thick of Green Fiber cellulose, with 6.5” Murus non-structural SIPStructural Insulated Panels above, providing R-60 insulation.  Murus PUR Polyurethane SIPS provide for higher melting temperature than EPS SIPS, crucial in this high-wildfire area. The Standing-Seam metal roofing by AEP-Span has an extremely high solar reflective index of 52 SRI, which assists in the house keeping cool in the hotter months of the year.

·        DOORS/WINDOWS:  German-Manufactured Unilux Doors and Windows with Passive House high-performance levels for U-Value, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, and Air Infiltration.  Because this is a high-wildfire area adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest (the previous home on this location burned down in a recent wildfire) the glass is both tempered and the outer layer has been laminated to provide a measure of “bullet proofing.”  The wildfires in this area typically occur in Santa Ana conditions, which can result in winds blowing over 90 mph.  Those winds blow rocks at windows of homes, breaking them and allowing embers to enter the homes, and that’s how most homes have burned down in this area. The tempered and laminated glass should prevent the windows from breaking in wildfires.

·        THERMAL MASSBio-based bioPCM Phase ChangeMaterial, from Phase Change Energy Solutions, incorporated into roof and both interior & exterior wall assemblies.  Phase Change Material provides for a “buffer” against indoor temperature fluctuations, allowing for both greater thermal comfort and less energy consumed running space conditioning systems.

·        AIR SEALINGProsoco R-Guard LiquidMembrane System, applied to entirety of building envelope, not only provides total air-sealing to Passive House Standard but also a bulk-moisture barrier and vapor barrier.

·        SOLAR THERMAL HOT WATER:  A large solar thermal system provides heating for domestic hot water, space heating, and pool/spa heating.

·        HEATING/COOLING:  Space heating and cooling are first provided for by Hydronic Radiant Floors coupled with Solar Thermal and a Daikin AlthermaAir-To-Water heat pump.  The floors should provide sufficient heating in winter, but for extreme summer time temperatures a backup to the cooled floors is a ducted fan coil system (also provided cool water by the Daikin Altherma.)  In addition, per the owners’ Permaculture Philosophy for redundancy, a third “backup” system has been installed in two bedrooms which consists of a ducted Altherma mini-split system with fan coils.  This entire system may seem overkill for a Passive House, but the system has been designed for a climate which could be dramatically different in 100-years or more.  This home has been built to last for generations.

·        VENTILATION: A Zehnder HRV Heat Recovery Ventilation system provides optimum indoor air quality, and at the same time maintains thermal efficiency in its fresh air ventilation.  The home is a pilot-project for Zehnder’s new ComfoDew system, shipped from Italy, which provides for humidity control in the home.  Humidity control is not only important for both thermal comfort and space conditioning efficiency, it helps reduce relative humidity in the home in the cooling season.  This allows for a lower dew point, which allows for a lower cooling temperature of the hydronic radiant floors.

·        ENERGY SYSTEM:  Arguably the most impressive aspect of the home is the sophisticated energy system.  The project goal is to eventually take the home off-grid in a Phase-2.  Phase-1 required that the home generate renewable energy and run off a battery system, utilizing the grid only for back-up energy (versus using the grid as the primary source of energy with renewables net-metering, with batteries only as backup as is typical.)  Taking a small, modest home off-grid is fairly easy, but a daunting task for a luxury home as the technology that enables the goal is only just now becoming available.  As the home is in one of the best sites for wind-generated energy in San Diego County, a 3.2 kW UGE VisionAIR5 wind turbinewill be installed on a hill just above the home.  Energy should be generated almost every day of the year for a 12-hour period or more.  The bulk of the electrical energy will be produced by three large dual-axis Deger trackers, each with 24 Photovoltaic panels.  The trackers should produce around 44,000 kWh per year.  Trackers are preferable to ground-mount systems in order to both generate energy more efficiently, but also stretch out the duration of the generation. This is vitally important for home striving to go off-grid.  A 40 kW battery storage system will power the home and accept the energy generated by the PV system and wind turbine.  The PV system is composed of (6) Outback 8048A inverters, (1) Outback FLEXmax Extreme Charge Controller, and (72) LG315N1C PV modules. 

·        APPLIANCES: Passive House Certification requires a strict energy budget.  Energy-efficient appliances from BoshThermador have been selected for the kitchen including an induction cooktop, the most energy-efficient way to cook.  The new Whirlpool Duet Heat-Pump Dryer accompanies the Duet Washer.  Heat pump dryers have been in Europe since 1997 but have only now in 2015 come to the U.S. Market.  Not only are they incredibly energy efficient, they are non-vented and require no make-up air which is perfect for an uber-tight Passive House. 

·        OTHER ENERGY USE:  Inside the home will be all-electric, with non-renewables (Propane) restricted to the outdoor BBQ, the backup spa/pool heater, and the outdoor porch heaters. The home will incorporate 100% high-efficacy LED lighting, both indoors and out.  Lighting and shades will be controlled by Crestron’s latest, more energy-efficient, control system.  The Crestron system will also control the homes Audio Visual (AV) and other low-voltage systems.  AV Systems are typically energy hogs and produce a lot of heat energy, which works against Passive House Principles, and so we have strived to source the latest technological developments in order to provide a system which utilizes less electricity and generates less heat.  Situated throughout the house, Haiku Fans (touted as the world’s most efficient fans) provide a cooling effect to occupants of 10° F, reducing other mechanical cooling system requirements during hotter months.  

·        MONITORING:  A Powerwise eMonitoring sytem with InViewPassive, an energy system for specifically designed for Passive House Energy Monitoring, will provide usage data for energy use, energy generation (both electric and solar thermal), available energy resources, water resource levels, and water consumption.  Not only will this assist us in analyzing the performance of the home over time, it will provide feedback to the owners in order for them to learn how to best operate their home.  A smart home requires smart occupants, and occupants cannot be smart without feedback.

·        DOMESTIC HOT WATER:  Solar Thermal should provide all the required heating for the home’s hot water.  As homes have become more energy-efficient, energy for hot water distribution has become a much larger percentage of their energy use.  The hot water distribution system for the kitchen and bathrooms has been designed to minimize hot water energy use/losses, and assure rapid delivery while minimizing waste of water down to only 1-cup before hot water reaches any fixture.  In addition, low water-use fixtures are installed where appropriate, including toilets, showerheads, and bathroom faucets.

·        WATER COLLECTION AND USE:  The home will be seeking the first permit in San Diego County for 100% of indoor water use from collected rainwater from its roof, with the rainwater being stored in a 37,000 gallon storage system.  Additionally, stormwater collected from the ground around the site will be stored in a 36,000 gallon storage system, and this water will be used for irrigation of a drought-resistant landscape.

·        WASTE WATER TREATMENT AND USE:  The home will be seeking the first permit in San Diego County for on-site blackwater treatment.  Both blackwater and graywater will go to the same treatment system, and all the water will be used for sub-surface drip irrigation of a fruit tree orchard.  Graywater is water that comes from bathroom sinks/showers, and the laundry room washer/sink.  Blackwater is water that comes from toilets and the kitchen sinks/dishwasher.

o   The Project Team has adhered to sustainable practices in construction, such as striving to recycle or reuse of every piece of construction waste generated. 
o   Though the home is situated in a relatively low Radon Risk Zone, that does not guarantee that radon does not exist in the area.  Since Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, no risks were taken and EPA Radon Resistant Construction was incorporated into the foundation assembly. 
o   Advanced Framing Techniques, also known as Optimal Value Engineering (OVE), were utilized to reduce framing lumber requirements. 
o   Sodium Borate treatment of all framing lumber prevents any termite infestation of the framing for the lifetime of the home. 
o   Low or Zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials, such as adhesives and coatings, have been used.  As well as generally being good for the environment, using Low/Zero VOC materials provides greater indoor air quality to the owners upon occupancy. 
o   Cabinetry is constructed of wood from sustainably grown/harvested forests (FSC wood certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.) 
o   Durable, hard-surface flooring installed throughout the house, far preferable to carpeting which can collect pollutants (i.e. dust, pollutants from shoes, human skin and mites) making for poorer indoor air quality.  Carpeting also continuously requires replacement.  


  1. Amazing build but what did you use for home entertainment, or home theater

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