I just wanted to mention a book that was recently loaned to me by a friend. It's an old book (published 1983, Brick House Publishing) by William Shurcliff, called Super Solar Houses. Here is a picture of the front cover:
The book details 3 houses designed by Norman Saunders - 2 were built in Massachusetts: The first, and most ambitious (Shrewsbury House) had been occupied for about a year as of the book's publication. This is the house pictured on the cover. The second house (Cliff House) is the most 'conventional' appearing. (By the way, the Cliff House chapter is reproduced on the BuildItSolar site.) The third house was a design study; I don't know if it was ever built.
The performance claims listed on the cover are basically true. The Shrewsbury House looks on the surface like a big glass box (which would never work), but there are a lot of 'control layers' beneath the surface which manage and distribute the solar radiation. Some of the key attributes are (1) a very large upper solar energy collection and storage area in the 'solar attic', which includes 400 ea. 6-gallon glass water containers, (2) an equally very large 'bin of stones' lower storage area beneath the house, (3) a regulated 'air drive' system which connects the two storage systems and the rest of the interior, and (4) a south facing full-height greenhouse. There are unique 'windows' which are also part of the temperature regulating and distribution systems.
The storage systems are able to collect and store far more heat than can ever be used 'real-time', and are able to deliver whatever quantity of heat is required, regardless of season or day-to-day conditions. This 'two-way clamp' feature (Shurcliff's term) overcomes many of the response problems that have plagued other passive solar designs. All this with no 'backup' heat sources. Truly, the house is the collector, and the collector is the house.
I don't know if these houses are still standing and how they performed long term, either in terms of basic structure or the unique solar features. Saunders makes the point, however, that the basic materials are common and durable, and that there are very few moving parts (mainly just the fan). If any of you reside in the west of Boston area, it may be worth a day trip to Shrewsbury or Weston, Mass.
Saunders patented the designs and most of the unique elements, so the book is not really a 'how-to' manual. Also, there are a lot of 'secret-sauce' calculations involved in sizing everything; these are not included in the book. What comes through in the end is that a 100% solar house is possible, a claim which very few have dared to make and then back it up. It's a great read if you can get your hands on a copy.