Enchanted Homes

Net zero-energy home appeals to creative and enviro-tech spirit

This isn’t a trophy home. It wasn’t built to impress visitors. In fact, it wasn’t ever intended to be sold.


This home at 11 Turkey Springs Road in Valdez is a rare opportunity. The 5,000 square-foot passive solar homestead sits on 30 forested acres in the secluded Gallina Canyon neighborhood.

Yet, it is just a short 13-mile drive to Taos Ski Valley and Taos Regional Airport. As of press time, Taos Air charter flights regularly arrive from the tech hubs of Dallas and Austin, with talk of adding more connecting airports soon.

The entirety of the property represents strong personal values: quiet family privacy, open creative space, and the lightest possible carbon footprint on the earth.

How it began

Roger Johnson and Martie Moreno built the environmentally sustainable home in 1999 before LEED® standards were introduced. The home’s design engineer, Karlis Viceps, is now a LEED® Accredited Professional.

The couple conceived of the idea for the home back in the 1980s. “We had been watching ‘60 Minutes’ and there was a segment on the Rocky Mountain Institut a more sensible way to be lighter on the environment. And you don’t have to live like Fred Flintstone,” Moreno said.

The husband-and-wife team was inspired by the ideal of living eco-consciously without sacrificing modern conveniences. They got to work on researching sustainable building methods and materials. In that regard, they already had a pretty sharp arrow in their quiver.

Johnson is a computer system designer. His professional experience includes work on sustainable environments for the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and submarines. So for the build of the home, Johnson focused on the sustainable environment design.

Moreno’s talents are well known throughout Taos. She began her career as a weaver and spinner, eventually leading her to create the once very popular Taos Sunflower yarn shop in Arroyo Seco. She brought these talents to bear in this home by creating the open-space, country-living look and feel.

As the third leg of the stool, Viceps worked on the architectural design by providing the construction documents and sustainable systems integration in that design process.

“This homestead is a superb example of a home that incorporates its own clean-energy systems and green-living strategies running seamlessly in the background,” Viceps said.

The net zero specs

Net zero-energy homes are highly desirable. They only consume as much energy as can be produced onsite (through renewable energy generation) and combined with energy efficiency techniques.

In a recent article, CNBC.com estimated there are just 5,000 net-zero single-family homes today. But the appetite for these homes is shaking up the housing market. California alone could add 100,000 a year starting in 2020.

This net zero-energy  home takes advantage of its southern orientation to capture, store and retain energy via solar panels, Trombe walls, and 17-inch thick Pumice-Crete® walls on the first floor. On the second floor, straw bale insulation is used.

There is a traditional mud plaster on the walls throughout the house, with mica chips as the surface finishes. This beautiful finish uses natural materials from the region and avoids manufactured paints and primers.

“The home exudes a natural comfort and extreme quiet in the home because of the sun’s warmth, superior insulation and sound-absorbing qualities of the materials and finishes,” said Viceps.

The artist/guest studio is connected via a covered walkway, while the solar greenhouse is attached to the main house. Both are built of recycled RASTRA insulated concrete forms.

In harmony with the seasons, the home retains heat in the winter and keeps out heat in the summer –– all with considerable efficiency and natural techniques versus carbon-based heating and fluorocarbon air conditioning.

Off-grid and wired

The home is fully connected to phone, electrical and Internet service lines. So for those executives and consultants who want to be remote yet need to remain connected, this home offers that dual convenience.

Nevertheless, the house is a treasure trove of off-the-grid living features. The 4.75KW solar photovoltaic array and associated inverters are tied to both the local electric grid and a large battery backup for optional off-grid operation.

All water needs are provided by rainwater harvesting and a 575-foot-deep well. The water is stored in 9,600 gallons of buried cisterns. Domestic hot water benefits from an insulated, passive batch tank system with no pumps, fans or motors. Two 1,000-gallon propane tanks (buried) provide backup heating and hot water.

Country living design

The outer look of the house is Territorial design, a classic style of the Northern New Mexico region.

About the interior design, Moreno said, “I have always loved the idea of a big farm kitchen and wanted to create that in our home. I love that I can cook and comfortably visit with whomever is there in a cozy, informal, way.”

The pantry was inspired by a visit to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in nearby Abiquiú. “I fell in love with the open shelving and the ability to store food and appliances so one could easily see what’s on hand,” Moreno said.

Live lightly on the land

The spacious windows and open floor plan provide sweeping views of key mountain landmarks: nearby El Salto is visible in the east; Taos Mountain and Truchas Peak frame the south; and even all the way out west, Mount Taylor is visible some 200-plus miles away.

It is hard to think of another available property on the Taos real estate market right now that offers such secluded privacy on a large swath of thirty acres, in a lush alpine environment, with 180-degree stunning views, and super-close convenience to a world-class ski resort, regional airport and town with restaurants and shopping.

Johnson and Moreno performed careful forestry management on the thirty acres, meeting U.S. Forest Service standards. Firebreaks around the home can serve as a helicopter landing area. For the house itself, all external materials are fire resistant such as the zinc alloy steel roof.

“There is so much room here to make it exactly what you need, to transform it with your vision. On thirty acres with views in every direction, you feel like you’re living in your own magical forest,” said Kristine Wood, broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices | Taos Real Estate.


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