Gray water is captured and
purified to be cycled to
and the main floor is of structural insulated foam.
Only the top floor is stick-built. All walls are R50
(interior walls, too, for silence and privacy); the
roof is R95. All glazing is of triple-pane superinsulated construction, and the windows are large
enough for plentiful solar gain. The view over
the trees to the south is of Boulder’s magnificent
Flatirons, the dramatic rock formation fronting
the eastern escarpment of the Rockies.
The irrigation ditch required a massive retaining wall — Oreck calls it the Hoover Dam — but when it runs
with water in the summer, it cools the backyard and patio perceptibly.
Some features are pure 19th century. A large
pantry off the kitchen, uninsulated on its north
wall, functions as the equivalent of a root cellar.
All woodwork, including the floors, is of sustainably harvested walnut.
Other features are pure 21st century. Every
room is wired with Cat 5 LAN, coaxial and fiber
optic cables to handle any kind of computer,
communications or entertainment device. The
cables even feed a tiny kids’ playroom under the
eaves with its own yard-high door. All the coun-tertops are American-made mineral quartz composite; the tiles are of recycled glass composite.
Lighting throughout uses LED lamps. They
“burn” at 98˚F , (37˚C) — skin temperature —
and thus are about 30 percent more efficient than
fluorescent lamps, with the same color balance as
the incandescent bulbs we’re used to. liters) of seawater daily. It also drives an air con-
Domestic water, cold and hot, travels in dedi- ditioning unit in the inverter room.
cated PEX tubing — that is, each faucet in each In 2005, the Orecks retrofitted their century-of the four and a half bathrooms has its own insu- old home in Boulder. The old house is a labora-lated line. Turning on a hot-water tap anywhere tory of sorts. In addition to efficiency upgrades,
in the house moves water from the heater tank it now has both a solar water-heating system and
by the most direct, unbranched route. Hot water a PV array, but Oreck says, “We’ve done a lot of
is nearly instant, without the use of booster tanks experimenting there to find out what’s doable.
or pumps. Gray water is captured and purified It’s a work in progress.”
to be cycled to the toilets. “Your pet could drink The reliance on off-the-shelf products meant
it,” Oreck notes. that Next West went up quickly. Planning began
Next West is the third solar project for Bruce early in 2007, and the certificate of occupancy
and Cody Oreck. In 2001, they built an off-grid came in October 2008.
beach house in Baja California, Mexico, using “We set out to prove that sustainable can be
a 15-kilowatt array to light four buildings, heat luxurious,” Oreck says. He thinks they’ve done
the hot tub and desalinate 1,800 gallons ( 6,800 a pretty good job. ST
Left, gray water tank and batteries. Turning on a
hot-water tap anywhere in the house moves water
from the heater tank by the most direct, unbranched
route. Hot water is nearly instant, without the use of
booster tanks or pumps. Right, inverter room with