“We wanted a facility that is comfortable and nurturing
for the children, and at the same time, economical to operate
and friendly to the environment.”
4.6 kilowatts, sufficient for powering the well-water pump and irrigating the rooftop garden).
I devoted considerable time to the landscaping — getting the right type of trees in just the
right location, so as they grow, they will shade
the windows from the summertime sun while
establishing a visually pleasing panorama.
The Crumes: And what happens to all that
hot water after bathing?
The Crumes: Tell us more about what is
happening on the roof.
Mr. Nii: Grass is planted over most of the
roof, and in one corner, we have an organic
vegetable garden that the children tend. The
soil, grass and garden help insulate the roof,
keeping it cool in the summer and reducing
heating bills in the winter. A rainwater collection system is included, providing water for
the green roof, the vegetable garden, landscape
maintenance and a small, artificial stream at
ground level. The rainwater is stored in a large
underground tank and piped to different locations using an electric pump powered by the
photovoltaic cells. The solar hot water heater
is dedicated to one of the children’s ofuro, a
Japanese-style soaking tub.
Ms. Nagano: Simple. It goes straight into
the washing machine, where it is used to wash
the children’s laundry. (Since bathing takes
place outside of the ofuro, the water remains
relatively clean.) Beside the laundry area is a
sun room that is used to dry the laundry. Thus,
the overall laundering process consumes very
little energy — the warm water is free and the
drying is left to the sun.
The Crumes: What were you thinking in
deciding to install so many windows?
The Crumes: The ofuro is important to the
Mr. Nii: Yes, almost every house has an
ofuro. Typically, after a long day at work or
school, many Japanese shower and then soak
in the ofuro, which resembles a large American
bath tub. Because ofuros are wide and deep,
requiring a lot of water, and because Japanese
like the water hot, solar water heating is an ideal
application. At Aozora, the toddlers’ ofuro was
custom made in a part of the country known
for clay pottery.
Mr. Nii: We were thinking about solar heating, but also natural lighting during daylight
hours. Natural lighting is important to children for a sound frame of mind, and we have
ensured that every room receives direct sunlight at some point during the day. Also, the
windows help the children feel more a part of
the surrounding community — they can see
the rice fields being worked and people coming and going from several nearby commercial
businesses. We also have several skylights, but
instead of opening vertically through the roof
like most skylights, they open through horizontal dormer windows. This helps prevent
overheating and also creates a beacon of light
to the surrounding neighborhood during the
evening hours, symbolizing our desire to be a
positive factor in community life.
The Crumes: Ms. Nagano, you mentioned
earlier that you want the children to learn environmental stewardship firsthand. Do you have
some examples of this?
Left, from top: Ofuro (hot bath) water is used for
clothes washing. South-facing windows brighten the music room. The rooftop vegetable garden is tended by children. Rice fields provide a
buffer between the children’s home and the surrounding city.
Ms. Nagano: Just by living in the facility
and learning about all of the solar and energy-conservation features, the children are exposed
to some important stewardship concepts. Also,
they help run Aozora by tending the rooftop
garden and watering the landscaping with rainwater. Recently we had a contest to see which
of the four living quarters could conserve the
most energy over a month. The kids really got