The site of the original Solar Cape was a lightly wooded lot in Burlington, Iowa with a southwesterly slope and a view of the cornfields beyond. The house – a compact two story cape – was designed to reduce foundation and roof areas, thus optimizing its surface-to-volume ratio. The structure is so energy-efficient that the annual heating/cooling bill is minimal.

As in the Cube House, the entry, utility room, shelves and most closets are located on the exterior wall for added insulation. The entry, a distinct air lock with an entrance door facing east, is at the lowest level, thus preventing cold air from cascading through the house. The kitchen, dining and living areas revolve clockwise around a centrally located wood stove. This placement and that of the bedrooms, bath and laundry is in direct response to the client’s program and the specific site conditions: approach from the road, solar orientation, privacy, views, and both winter and summer prevailing winds.

This excellent set of plan decisions makes the most of limited space. There’s a good understanding of solar potential. Here’s a serious effort to find an economical and practical solution to the problems of compact houses.
Don Watson, judge
International Compact House Competition
The Compact House Book
Garden Way, 1983

Though the house is very compact – only 1028 S.F. – its open floor plan, skylights, and extensive south-facing glass counteract the sense of tight enclosure. An exposed plank and beam ceiling on the first floor celebrates the house’s structural composition, a common approach in Inglese’s work. The house is designed to be framed with standard materials, offering easy specification and construction.

TIA Architects entered the design in the International Compact House Competition sponsored by Garden Way Publishing, and coincidentally, the plans of the house appeared on the cover of their publication in 1983 – The Compact House Book. Since its initial design, a great number of variations of the Solar Cape have been built in various parts of the country.