We are considering property in the southeast, south-central Texas area because we'd like to remain within driving distance of our families. I realize that hot, humid locations are not ideal due to the brutal heat of the summers. We're (my wife and I) both from Texas and have lived or visited all over the state.
Most of the structures I've seen so far seem to focus on keeping warm in the winter without grid power, oil, gas, etc. I'm looking for good resources on designing a structure that will make the summers tolerable. I'd love to hear from someone that's actually done it before.
I've just started looking and have seen some reasonable looking deals in Navasota, Madisonville, and Huntsville.
We're also a little concerned about being socially isolated so if there are any existing communities we could buy land near, we'd love to hear about those as well.
You may way to look at traditional house designs in the Gulf Cost, like bayou houses and shotgun houses. I lived in a "bayou house" design and it worked quite well at catching any breeze and bringing it into the house.
Also, "sun-tempered" passive solar designs, like those from Debra Rucker Coleman. Some of hers are passive solar for heat gain, but she's an Alabama architect and understands and produces the reverse. Most of her home designs are online at sunplans.com
I built in Southwest Costa Rica and lived in a few different types of homes to decide which would be the best fit for hot and humid. We determined that earth bag construction was our best fit.
4' overhangs to shade the exterior walls and lots of vegetation close to the home to absorb solar radiation.
I didn't have much for building codes so it was pretty easy to accomplish. Not sure if this would be a good fit for SE Texas but for hot and humid we have found it our best fit.
1. Attic fans. In rural AL, many pre-central air houses were equipped with them. Any house I build will have one. At night, with open windows, it creates a great effect as long as you are not surrounded by heat sinking blacktop and concrete.
2. Look at having the kitchen separate frm the rest of the house. Most antebellum homes had this feature so that (a) the house did not heat up from cooking and (b) fire would not destroy the whole house, should it break out.
Light color paint and roof color. Old neighbor had a metal roof with a mister connected to a solar panel, it would only run when it was sunny outside and roof needed cooling. Large porch on the south side of the building with a ceiling fan makes a wonderful sitting area. Learn where the prevailing winds come from and put windows in place to catch all the breeze you can. Vegetation around the house for shade is good but not if it blocks the wind, have them up high to block the sun. Narrow and tall rooms lets the breeze in and hot air rise above you. Have ways to vent all that hot air outside.
If you are going to use AC, bulk up on the most insulation you can. If you can live without it, go the opposite way. You want as little as possible so the house can cool off rapidly at night. That's also why you stay away from the high mass materials, concrete/brick/stone, they store the heat up during the day and it will not cool off at night.
I have some suggestions , that i have learned about and used. As well as some others i would love to given the resources.
First i wouldnt use any attic fans, I would use a metal corrugated style sheathing, as it reflects so much of the thermal heat and does not heat the attic area like shingles do. And i would incorporate a venting sysytem through the soffits and out the ridge of the roof. This air will circulate much better and a larger area than any attic fan will ever do. I did this to a 65 year old house last year in centarl ks. Where they had to have 4 ac units running 24 hours a day to be able to have a chance to be comfortable in the summer, i tore off the three layers of asphault shingles. Removed the attic fan, insulated the attic with blown in insulation to a depth of 8 to 12 inches, and installed the new metal roof panels as well as the soffit and ridge venting sytem, They could easily use the home without the ac units running and no attic fan. The tempature inside the home changed almost 30 degrees ) As for ideas check out some of the adobe , rammed earth, poured earth homes acailable . Look online. For examples.. Good planning and designs can save you alot of monthly expense, and be so much more comfortable.