Energy Efficiency & Environmental News:
Cracker Homes for Contemporary Living1
Florida Energy Extension Service and Gary Cook2
CRACKER HOMES FOR CONTEMPORARY and town planning. He specializes in Florida historic
LIVING architecture and has designed many Cracker style homes.
He has won a number of energy efficient home awards;
This newsletter will expand on the March issue to the most recent was a first place energy efficient Cracker
describe application of Cracker principles in modern home design in a contest sponsored by the Florida Solar
home design. This style of architecture lends itself to Energy Center and Florida’s State Energy Office. His
certain energy efficient features, particularly passive ideas and home designs have appeared in magazines and
solar features. This particular issue will feature newspapers, and Professor Haase is currently writing a
contemporary designs of Cracker homes by awarding book titled "Classic Cracker."
winning architect Professor Ron Haase and the one built
by Bud and Mary Manning in west Gainesville, Florida. Ron Haase’s award winning design, called the
These homes expand on Cracker features and incorporate Suwannee, was in the 1750 square foot size category.
concepts for modern living. The Suwannee features two stories of Cracker-style
living. In winter, a wood stove helps heat the home,
As discussed in the March newsletter, Cracker style while windows that open to a wrap-around veranda
architecture developed around five or six general styles provide ventilation during summer. When air
of houses. However, two key elements are common. conditioning is a must, this compact design with its
The home makes best use of shade and natural built-in energy features should help keep utility bills to
ventilation. Other characteristics extend the home to the a minimum.
immediate surroundings to the outside of the home, and
usually the cooking area was located either on the porch Features the Florida Solar Energy Center and the
or on the separate extension of the house detached from independent judges liked about Ron Haase’s submission
the normal living and sleep areas. This strategy (Figure 1) were: very good natural ventilation potential,
minimized heat build-up in the main portion of the good first floor shading from porch, porch ventilates well
house. Winter heating was provided by fireplaces or (3 open sides), marketable, very liveable, detached
iron stoves. garage attractive and allows flexibility for sites, good
front elevation, cost a plus and very contemporary.
Ron Haase’s House
Ron Haase also won the first place award in a
Ron Haase is a professor of Architecture at the national passive design competition sponsored by
University of Florida where his teaching and private
practice focus on regionalism, neo-traditional imagery
1. This document is the June 1991 issue of Energy Efficiency and Environmental News, the newsletter of the Florida Energy Extension Service, Florida
Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: June 1991.
2. Florida Energy Extension Service, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110940, Gainesville, FL 32611-0940; Gary Cook, School of Building Construction,
University of Florida, FAC 101, Gainesville, FL 32611, (904) 392-5965, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.
The Florida Energy Extension Service receives funding from the Florida Energy Office, Department of Community Affairs and is operated by the University
of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences through the Cooperative Extension Service. The information contained herein is the product of the
Florida Energy Extension Service and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Florida Energy Office.
Energy Efficiency & Environmental News: Cracker Homes for Contemporary Living Page 2
Figure 1. The Suwannee designed by Ron Haase.
Passive Solar Journal (Figure 2). The house is planned doing all the rough carpentry work and meticulously
for the central Florida community of Micanopy where installing the radiant heat barrier and insulation. Their
natural breezes cannot be relied upon for cooling. The house does not sacrifice lifestyle or comfort, and it
design provides for cooler air to flow up and out of the accommodates a family of four within a rather large
four-story stair tower. Professor Haase also provides area-2700 conditioned square feet.
ceiling fans to back-up natural convective cooling. In
the winter, heating is accomplished almost exclusively The house has four bedrooms, two and a half baths,
by wood stoves and a fireplace. Haase’s design is and makes use of modem appliances the original
featured in Figure 3. crackers never had, such as a large three door
refrigerator, washer, dryer, dish washer, electric range
The Manning house. and others normally found in the modem home. The
home is two-story, with all four bed rooms located
Bud and Mary Manning’s house incorporates the upstairs to capture evening breezes and take full
best of the Florida Cracker style home concepts along advantage of the split system.
with modem insulation techniques and use of air
conditioning and heating equipment. Mr. and Mrs. Designed to take advantage of passive solar features,
Manning used information provided by this Energy the large roof overhang coupled with an open porch
Extension Specialist, who grew up in and around along three sides of the ground floor provide shade in
Cracker houses, to build a contemporary house of this the summer for the windows and walls. While the house
style. Their house incorporates the best of the old and is constructed off-grade. It uses an insulated block
new, resulting in exceptionally low energy bills. Truly stemwall construction to take advantage of moderate
built as a labor of love, the Mannings put in many hours ground temperatures.
Energy Efficiency & Environmental News: Cracker Homes for Contemporary Living Page 3
Figure 2. A Ron Haase House Featured in The Passive Solar Journal.
Cooling and heating is provided by two soft zone Ceiling fans provide air circulation during periods of
high efficiency heat pumps, with one servicing the calm.
upstairs bedrooms. The key element of the roof system
is the installation of a radiant heat barrier. While the The passive Cracker design features and
roof deck is made up of triple-dip galvanized steel, contemporary features incorporated in the house reduce
providing some reflectivity, the primary barrier is the cooling season and the heating season by two months
employment of an aluminum-faced paper under the as compared to a traditional home. Mechanical cooling
stringers used to support the galvanized roofing. This is generally necessary between June and September,
keeps both the attic and the attic insulation cool in the while mechanical heating is necessary only a very few
summer, and keeps heat in the house during the winter. times during winter with the fireplace providing most of
The ceiling is insulated with R-26 blown insulation and the heating. The wood stove fireplace insert is designed
the walls employ an R-11 fiberglass batt with 3/4" rigid to work using the air handler and ductwork to reclaim
form board sheathing and cedar exterior siding. Window some of the heat that normally goes up the chimney.
designs provide for excellent cross-ventilation during This typically warms a good portion of the house,
periods of low humidity and moderate temperatures. according to the Mannings. Solar water heating was
explored, but it
Energy Efficiency & Environmental News: Cracker Homes for Contemporary Living Page 4
Figure 3. Ron Haase Houses Continued.
was determined the solar system would not be cost barrier." Mary added, "You know we took extra pains to
effective. Located on 10 acres, farm animals and a man- install the insulation in every crack and crevice, around
made catfish pond make for sustainability. light switches and in corners. It was a lot of work, but
it was worth it."
When asked, "Now that you’ve lived in the house
for several years, does it live up to your expectations in Full construction plans for the Suwannee may be
terms of comfort and energy savings?" Bud replied, "Yes purchased from the Florida Solar Energy Center, 300
indeed, we all find it comfortable. Considering what we State Road 401, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920; $75 for the
have, the energy bills are very low. It’s amazing that the first copy and $10 for additional copies. A catalog for
fireplace can provide most of the heat in the winter. I’m award winning designs in other size categories is
very pleased with the performance of the insulation and available in FSEC’s "The Cracker Style: Contemporary
the radiant heat Efficiency with Historic Florida Flare."
Energy Efficiency & Environmental News: Cracker Homes for Contemporary Living Page 5