Energy Efficient Home

SunTerra has been the leader in designing and building cost effective energy efficient homes since 1978. A house is a system of interconnected elements. SunTerra strives to combine all the parts with careful emphasis on economics, durability, maintenance, comfort and energy efficiency. When you purchase a SunTerra house plan, each plan includes the SunTerra Conservation guide, which includes information you need to build the optimal home on your site.

SunTerra’s success in designing and building homes depends upon understanding the physical forces that create a tug of war between the outside and the inside environments.

SunTerra applies the latest in building science to its homes. Our “total concept” approach seeks to enhance living comfort and home sustainability through every one of our energy saving features, including Solariums and passive solar, proper insulation, heat recovery ventilation, alternative heating and cooling systems, earth sheltering, new window technologies, advanced framing, and more.

Climate Conscious

Since heating requirements vary depending on location, we provide a variety of construction methods from which to choose. The SunTerra design considers not only climate but also utility cost as factors when determining construction standards. This gives our clients the ability to choose conservation methods for their specific needs.

Advanced Framing

SunTerra Homes use only as much wood framing as is structurally necessary, leaving more room for insulation. This construction method eliminates structurally unnecessary wood members and replaces them with insulation.

Advanced framing conserves wood, reduces heat loss and saves money without compromising the structural strength of the building. SunTerra has developed a cost-effective exterior wall that performs 50 percent better than a standard insulated 2 x 6 wall without increasing the wall thickness. All of our plans illustrate this option.

Roof Design

Eaves receive special attention to address a common source of heat loss and potential water damage. Roof framing often affects energy use. Many homes use trusses instead of rafters that rest directly on exterior walls. This leaves little space for insulation. Not only does this waste energy dollars, but heat loss melts snow which then refreezes forming ice dams that can cause extensive moisture damage.

SunTerra homes use a variety of methods to ensure adequate insulation. One method is the "raised heel truss" that raises the roof framing to allow the full layer of insulation to extend over the exterior wall.
Energy Efficient Roof Framing Design
Conventional roof framing pinches insulation near the eaves and allows for excessive heat loss. Energy-efficient roof framing allows enough space over exterior walls for full thickness insulation.

If the home is constructed with roof rafters, we can reduce heat loss through the ceiling by choosing the hot-roof design. It acquires its name because it does not require ventilation for moisture control.

As illustrated in the roof wall section, if we keep moisture from getting into the structure from the outside and prevent moisture laden air from achieving dew point in the structure from the inside, we do not need ventilation.

This improves the effectiveness of the insulation because air is not wiping away the heat.


Heat stays in and drafts stay out with SunTerra's unique insulation methods illustrated with plans. When evaluating insulation, look for more than R-value. Thermal performance is important, but so is air infiltration and moisture control.

While several types of insulation can reduce heat loss; air infiltration, and moisture condensation within the exterior shell of a home must be addressed. SunTerra recommends advanced framing with foam spray insulation,structural insulated panels,or insulated concrete formes as a preferred meathed of construction. Another option is the strapped wall construction illustrated in the conservation guide provided with your home plans. Consider area climate,heating expence and cost of construction when choosing the best wall system for your home.


Earth Sheltered Homes

SunTerra--the sun and earth combined for comfort! This is the blending of the SunTerra home with its site to help achieve a low profile in addition to providing energy savings.

An earth sheltering home begins by choosing to build on a slab rather than a crawl space. Couple the home to the ground rather than let cold air be under and around your floor. Some of our plans illustrate option to lowering your floor below grade and/or earth burming were appropriate. The construction techniques are given to you in the conservation guide included with you plan purchase.

Efficient Heating and Cooling

Cutting-edge equipment and careful installation combine for high-efficiency. SunTerra Homes has incorporated several types of high-performance heating and cooling systems to further reduce annual energy expenses. These include geothermal heat pumps, air-to-water heat pumps, active solar and night flush cooling.

Energy Efficient Radiant Floor Heating

These systems are designed to lower electrical heating and cooling costs by an additional 50 to 70 percent cost effectively.

Most SunTerra clients choose hydronic radiant floor heating for comfort and efficiency. This system can also be used for cooling, but the capacity is limited by the potential for condensation on the floor surface. When cooling needs exceed the capacity of the hydronic floor, an additional air distribution system is best.

Most SunTerra house plans incorporate alternative energy systems to some degree.

Installation of Foam Insulation
Installation of Foam Insulation



Green Product Foam Insulation Illustration
Illustration of Insulated Wall Detail


Earth Sheltered Home
Earth Sheltered Home