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News and Events

New!
Tucson Innovative Community Tour

— a year-round opportunity to see how sustainability works in Tucson!

Find out how to get in touch with us.

Solar Institute

Practical Sustainability in Action™

A community of unbiased, independent, non-commercial expertise
to help you create a better life and sustain your world

"Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein

"Green is no longer a fad ... no longer something you do to do good and hope that it pays off in ten years. Green is the way you grow, build, design, manufacture, work and live ... the smartest, most efficient, lowest cost way – when all the true costs are included – to do things ... the defining measure of a country's economic standing ... the currency of power." - Thomas Friedman

Sustainability. One of the most significant scientific discoveries of our time is that we are all members of a greater community, an intricate web of life that embraces the whole world and everything in it. The greatest challenge of our time is to learn how to fit in with this natural biosphere as a sustaining and sustainable member of that community. The Solar Institute is fundamentally concerned with helping people find a better relationship with the world, to fit in sustainably with the cycles of nature, and to create a greater harmony between the built environment and the natural environment.

News
New Community Tour is year-round!  Starting in January, the new Tucson Innovative Community Tour can be taken at your convenience on any day of the year. This will be your best opportunity to see the latest and most important new advances in sustainability and green building — and learn how you can put them to good practical, cost-effective use yourself to have a much better home that costs you much less.  More
With the introduction of the new community tour, the Tucson Innovative Home Tour and Tucson Solar Tour will be suspended this year, but may return next year. Please get in touch with us and let us know what you think!
Planning your dream home? Renovating or improving your home?  Openings are now available for the Next Generation Home Program. With some of the region's most extensive expertise and long term experience in building science and passive solar, environmental and lifetime design, plus access to the best practical and proven advances in building materials, processes and products, the Next Generation Home Program can help you have a much better home that costs a lot less, not just today but for the long term. With this revolutionary approach to planning, design and construction, your home can be the basis for a healthier, happier and more carefree way of living beyond anything you have seen before.  More

You can live better - we can help. Named for the physical source that sustains life on Earth, the Solar Institute is a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that conducts research and offers a broad range of information, consulting and referral services for effectively applying sustainability on a practical and cost-effective basis for individuals, communities, businesses and governments. Solar Institute services include planning, design, construction, renovation and improvement of homes, buildings, communities, landscapes and ecosystems. Our focus is to create healthy, satisfying and economical living environments that fit in better with nature, so you and your world can thrive.

Whether you would like to design and build a wonderful new sustaining and sustainable home or other building, renovate or add on, the Solar Institute can provide the best unbiased expert information, advise and professional services to satisfy your needs at the best value for your money. Through the Solar Institute, you can also connect with the best designers, architects, engineers and builders available in Southern Arizona. Sustainability starts with top quality and value. To find out how much this can mean to you, contact the Solar Institute.


News
You too can have a much better home that costs much less
Whether you are planning the home of your dreams, or improving or adding to the home you love, the Solar Institute can help you do it far better. The Next Generation Home Project is accepting applications for consulting support for the planning, design and construction of the first Next Generation Homes, as well as renovations of a similar nature.
  If you would like a home that is much better and costs much less over the longer term, as well as fit in much better with its environment, be sure to get in touch with us.

The latest help for you from the Solar Institute
Information, consulting and referral services. The Solar Institute is independent, non-profit and non-commercial, a long-time leader in putting sustainability into action in Southern Arizona. Through the Solar institute you get the best unbiased expert information, advise and professional services to satisfy your needs and the best value for your money. Join the Tucson Solar Alliance or the Tucson Homeowners Alliance and you can get simple questions answered at no charge, as well as professional consulting at greatly reduced rates. This works like Consumer Reports: these organizations are not affiliated in any way with any business and do not receive money or other considerations from any commercial enterprise. Click here for information on how to get in touch with us."

Next Generation Building Institute. A broad network of professionals and organizations are leading a quantum leap forward in building design and construction: high performance homes and buildings that function much better but cost a lot less to operate and maintain, buildings that fit in with the natural environment and contribute to a sustaining and sustainable built environment, buildings as if people mattered. Tucson is recognized nationally for being at the forefront of this work. Now owners, designers and builders have a central resource to make their buildings the best they can be. Through the Institute you can access some of the most knowedgeable and experienced professionals in the country, as well as the unique Next Generation planning and design methodology that brings it all together. Click here for information on how to get in touch with us.

Now is the time to build your dream home. The news gets worse every day for home owners: the costs of houses, materials, products, utilities, taxes and everything associated with homes are not just going up, they are increasing at alarming rates. However, those who are interested in pioneering a new approach to designing and building a higher quality home that will cost a lot less over the long term now have a unique opportunity to fuflfill that dream.
  For years, Tucson's officially recognized Next Generation Home Project has analyzed not only all the functions and values of a home and how to improve them, but also all of the major costs of a home and how to reduce them as much as possible. Designing and building a new home the right way can result in total savings of up to 50% for the long-term cost of home ownership. This includes reductions of 75% and more for utility bills and other operations, maintenance and repair costs. Think of what it would mean to cut your costs of home ownership in half.
  The Alliance is now ready to make the results of all this effort available to a few aspiring homeowners who are willing to be the first pioneers to put this new approach to designing and building a home to the test.

  The Next Generation Home Project is accepting applications for consulting support for the planning, design and construction of the first Next Generation Homes, and major improvements or additions to existing homes. Applicants should be highly interested, willling and able to work together cooperatively with building science consultants, architects, engineers, builders and others to faithfully follow this method through to satisfactory completion, test the results and share their experience with the community. Because this is a test of real-world conditions, applicants must also be financially sound and have their own financing. The project will take advantage of available tax credits, rebates and other measures to minimize costs, but no grants are available for the project. It should be anticipated that the initial price of the house will be somewhat higher than comparable standard homes to achieve the quality necessary to reduce costs over the longer term. The goal is to make your home much better and cost much less over the longer term through building science and applied sustainability, as well as fitting in much better with and drawing resources from its environment. Click here for information on how to get in touch with us.

The Next Generation Affordable Housing Project is looking for volunteers to help non-profit housing providers design and build a new generation of much better, much more affordable homes for those who need them most. You too can help! There are many ways you can help and no experience is necessary. Click here for more information.

It's a good time to solve your energy crisis. The many costs of the continuing energy crisis become more serious every year. To address this, new federal tax credits, offer owners and builders of home and commercial buildings a variety of incentives for putting energy efficiency measures and renewable energy to good use, including a 30% tax credit for solar energy equipment. In addition, the State of Arizona offers a $1,000 tax credit, and Tucson Electric Power offers up to $3,000 in rebates on solar systems. For expert, unbiased, non-commercial information and advice on getting the best deal without getting burned ...
  The Tucson Solar Alliance can help you. It's a non-profit, non-commercial community program that does not sell anything - it just helps you get the best and most appropriate system for you at the best price, with the best unbiased expert information and advise in town. It is not affiliated in any way with any companies or sales programs. Considering what happened the last time such high tax credits were available, things are going to get wild in the solar marketplace. You will want to choose the right equipment, the right manufacturer and the right installer very carefully to avoid disappointments. With demand spiking, the prices are likely to go up soon too. Click here for more information.

In the news
Sustainability and you. Just as "environment" was in the 1970s, Sustainability is now the crucial concept of our times. Soaring population growth and competition for resources is outstripping local resources all over the planet, causing ever greater social, economic and environmental disruption. Living in harmony with nature is no longer a luxury, it's a matter of survival. Click above for more on what you can do to protect yourself – and your world.
"Solar and Sustainability Month". In recognition of the importance of solar energy and related sustainable measures to the people of Arizona, and in support of the contribution made by the Tucson Innovative Home Tour and Tucson Solar Tour and associated events in Arizona to progress in these fields, the Governor has designated October to be “Solar and Sustainability Month” in Arizona. You can see the text and news release by clicking above. The Solar Institute is your source for help in putting sustainability to work in sustaining your life in better ways.
Living sustainably in the desert. Click here to see the Arizona Daily Daily Star's great Sunday Home feature on one of the fascinating homes on last year's Tucson Innovative Home Tour, a chance to see homes with "practical and cost-effective ways to exist better in Southern Arizona's climate." The feature home is a "... treasure trove of items that reduce environmental impact ... 70 percent of exterior irrigation comes from gray water or rainwater ... By the kitchen sink, a tap dispenses water from the rooftop solar water still ..." and much more,
"Home Sustainable Home: A tour of eco-friendly Tucson houses shows the possibilities for a brighter future." Click here to see the fine article in the Tucson Weekly about one of the homes on the 2006 tour, that of an expert on permaculture and rainwater harvesting. "There's an insurgent joy to the clipped power cables ... a defiant beauty to the lush enclave that surrounds his old adobe ... his world thrives on a fraction of the energy and water used by most Tucsonans." Total utility bills? "Right now, it's about $20 a month," he says with a big smile. "This gives people a chance to find out how to live better in the desert."
Passive solar design is the “hot building technology” of our times, according to renowned building scientist, J. Douglas Balcomb. "I see two reasons for it to lead architectural design in coming years: It is a critical technology for the 21st century, and it works." Read this article and others in Solar Today, the journal of the American Solar Energy Society, including coverage of the National Solar Tour.

More help for you

The Solar Institute has solutions for you.
  Not many people realize that it is possible to substantially reduce the costs of home ownership. Studies by the Next Generation Home Alliance analyzed all of the major costs of home ownership in Tucson and then determined how to reduce them. Designing and building a new home the right way can result in total savings of up to 50% for all costs and savings as much as 75-80% for things like gas and electric costs, and other operations, maintenance and repair costs. Think of what it would mean to cut your costs of home ownership in half. Savings for existing homes can also be substantial.
  One of the main focuses of the Tucson Innovative Home Tour and the Next Generation Home Seminar is to show you how you can do that. You may be surprised at how much better you can live at much lower costs.
  To help you do that, the Solar Institute now offers information, consulting and referral services for members of any of its family of community organizations, generally at very good discounts. Others have done this - we can show you how.
  Click here for information on how to get in touch with us.

Additional help from the Tucson Homeowners Alliance
Solar Institute sets record straight on summer comfort. The front page of the Arizona Daily Star featured advice from the Solar Institute on how to stay comfortable at low cost. Click here to see the article and get more information under "News You Can Use."

Tips for Hiring a Contractor The government reports that the number one source of complaints from homeowners is problems with contractors. This compilation can help you learn from the experience of others and avoid pitfalls.

Property Tax shock. The average valuation of homes for tax purposes may have fallen a bit, but the taxes still rose this year according to the Pima County Assessor's Office in Tucson. Click on the link to learn more about what you can do to check your property valuation and taxes.

"Mold stirs worry in homes." - Read the Arizona Daily Star's report on mold problems in local homes and learn what you can do to avoid such a disaster.

Fall Home Tips. Now that cooler weather is back, our compilation of practical information and ideas can help you complete important home priorities and prepare for winter.

Homeowners unite! Join the Tucson Homeowners Alliance to share and obtain information, ideas and experience in owning, operating and maintaining your home. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, we can hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately.

Additional news and information
Popular press discovers value of next generation of homes.
  "We are building the wrong kinds of houses. Last month, while researching a story on energy-efficient home building ... dozens of experts convinced me we can change the way we build houses. The new methods range from subtle, such as passive solar design and framing with structural insulated panels, to advanced, such as using rooftop photovoltaic modules for converting the sun's rays to electricity and constructing exterior walls with insulated concrete forms." - Newsday, February 17, 2005. For more information and to read more of the article, click on the title above.

"The Power is theirs" - it can be yours too! - Read the Arizona Daily Star's Sunday feature article about homeowners who power their homes from the sun. You have seen some of these homes on the Tucson Innovative Home Tour. Click here for more information on how you can do this yourself.

Universal design is an important new concept for anyone planning to build or buy a new home. It's about designing homes as if people mattered. It means greater functionality, adaptability, flexibility and much lower long-term costs in a home to meet our curent and changing needs. Thanks to the leadership of the Tucson Commission on Disability Issues, our community is also at the forefront of advances in this field. Click above to learn more about why this is important to you.

DIY Rammed Earth workshops. "Rammit Yourself!" A comprehensive full-day workshop where you can learn rammed earth construction "hands on," both theory and practice, through actual construction. Bring a sample of your soil if you would like it tested. Plan on getting dirty. A rare opportunity to learn from one of the top experts and pioneers in the field: Quentin Branch. For information, call (520) 896-3393.


The Solar Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals, corporations and communities put sustainability into action, creating home, corporate and community environments that better sustain us and our world. Advances in solar energy and other environmentally responsive and responsible technologies are leading a revolution in living better, more affordably and wisely. We invite you to take part in this community and join in the solar revolution.

Community programs
Next Generation Building Institute - leading a quantum leap forward in building design and construction

Next Generation Home Alliance - creating far better, more affordable homes

Tucson Solar Alliance - helping you connect to solar & other advances

Tucson Homeowners Alliance - community network for home improvement

Tucson Innovative Home Tour - sharing great ideas for much better homes

Natural Living Alliance - think globally, act locally

ECLIPSE - putting solar energy and sustainability into action at the University of Arizona

Progress Through Community
In addressing challenging environmental conditions, Tucson has become recognized as a leader in advances in solar and environmental design, solar houses, new materials, sustainable development and other innovations in home building and more environmentally and people friendly living. Professionals and others come here from all over the world to see and become part of this revolution in consciousness, design and construction.

Much of this progress is due to a long tradition of community action in these fields. As a means to bring the community together and foster greater progress in this way, community leaders formed the Solar Institute. Among its accomplishments are ...

An Overview
Next Generation Building Institute. A broad network of professionals and organizations are leading a quantum leap forward in building design and construction: high performance buildings that function much better but cost a lot less to operate and maintain, buildings that fit in with the natural environment and contribute to a sustaining and sustainable built environment. Tucson is recognized nationally for being at the forefront of this work. Now owners, designers and builders have a central resource to make their buildings the best they can be.

Next Generation Home Alliance. A large on-going community partnership continues to help homeowners, community non-profit housing providers, architects and builders design and build a new generation of advanced homes that offer a quantum leap in performance, yet reduce long term costs by up to 50% and even more. It also pursues new ways to improve existing homes with the same goals.

Tucson Solar Alliance. A large community coalition helps everyone access solar energy and related technologies and practices as practical and cost effective choices. Its successful Community Solar Program was awarded national funding to help people obtain solar energy systems at greatly reduced prices, plus get expert, unbiased, noncommercial information and advice. Maintains community information and referral service (see "Access Solar" in Yellow Pages under "Solar Energy."

Tucson Homeowners Alliance. A network of homeowners helping homeowners opens the door to solar and environmental design, greater use of on-site renewable resources, solar and other new sustaining technologies, a host of new and rediscovered materials, holistic architecture, integrated systems engineering, greater efficiencies, a new focus on long term economics and other advances that are changing the way people look at designing and building houses. It all adds up to a much better house at much lower costs.

Tucson Innovative Home Tour. This annual community sharing event offers a chance to see and learn about advances in home design and technology that make a big difference. Affiliated with the National Tour of Solar Homes, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society and the U.S. Department of Energy, the annual Tucson tour is one of the largest local home tours of its kind in the nation.

Natural Living Alliance. The Solar Institute, a member of the Earth Day Network, is centrally concerned with helping people find a better relationship with their world, to fit in with the natural cycles of life and sustainability, to reduce our impact on the biosphere, and to create a greater harmony between the built environment and the natural environment. Earth Day reminds us to come together in community action on behalf of this greater community of life on earth. We invite you to join in this community effort to "Think globally, act locally."

Sustainability and You
The term, sustainability, known to only a few at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, is now a major concern all over America and all over the world. The need to "Think globally, act locally," has become more urgent and many are heading the call, including here in Tucson and Pima County. See what this means to you.

You're Invited
Participants and supporters of these programs include many individuals, community organizations, professional organizations, businesses and business organizations, educational institutions, the City of Tucson, Pima County, State of Arizona and the federal government.

We invite you to become a part of this community sharing too. Just click here for information on how to get in touch with us.

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Credits: We would like to thank the City of Tucson, Pima County, the State of Arizona, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for support and funding, as well as the many organizations and individuals who have contributed to making these community initiatives such a success.

© Copyright 2013 Solar Institute, Inc. ® Solar Alliance, Tucson Solar Alliance, Solar Alliance of Greater Tucson, Tucson Innovative Home Tour, Next Generation Home, Next Generation Home Alliance, Next Generation Building Institute, Tucson Homeowners Alliance, Natural Living Alliance for Sustainability and Tucson Community Solar Program are registered trade names of the Solar Institute. All rights reserved.