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Longtime Tucson developer and green-building pioneer John Wesley Miller died April 18 after a long illness.

Miller, who was 88, will be remembered for his major contributions to the Tucson home-building industry, including major initiatives to promote sustainable building practices, said David Godlewski, president of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.

“It is difficult to put into words the magnitude of effect John had on SAHBA and on the home building industry over the years,” Godlewski said in a message to members. “He was far ahead of his time in embracing sustainable building practices, building green homes before doing so was embraced as a mainstream practice.”

Miller was a founding member of SAHBA’s Green Build Council and helped draft the National Association of Home Builders green-building code.

He served on SAHBA’s board of directors for many years and was a senior life director of the NAHB. In 2017, Miller received the SAHBA Legacy Award for Lifetime Contribution.

Daughter Julia Miller said her father would have liked to be remembered for his love of family and his work in the community, including his longtime support of the Primavera Foundation, the Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Gospel Rescue Mission, and his work for the former Benedictine Monastery on North Country Club Road.

“Giving back to the community — that was hugely important to him,” she said.



Builder John Wesley Miller kisses 14-year-old Lizzie Bell with her family before their weeklong vacation to New York City. The family’s home, in background, was demolished by the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and was rebuilt in a week. Lizzie suffers from a disease in which she needs a blood transfusion every two to three weeks.



Sober for 42 years after struggles with alcoholism that lasted into his 40s, Miller remained a strong supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous, Julia Miller said.

“As someone who built homes, (alleviating) homelessness was very important to him, and the AA connection was equally important,” she said.

Miller suffered a serious back injury in 2021 but was still building custom homes and was passionate about home accessibility.

“He finished an amazing accessible home for a woman in a wheelchair just last year, which he wasn’t able to see,” Julia Miller said, citing features including an accessible dog-bathing area and lowered kitchen fixtures, and an oven that opens to the side for easy access.

She said her father remained positive and smiling during nine weeks of hospice care, after being diagnosed with a terminal abdominal condition.

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Born in Webb City, Missouri, Miller came to Tucson with his family at age 14, graduated from Tucson High School in 1951 and attended the University of Arizona. He remained a lifelong booster of the Tucson High Badgers and the Arizona Wildcats.

Miller began working as a builder and real estate developer with his father, Wesley Helm Miller, and built his first home in 1953.



John Wesley Miller

The Biosphere II complex is seen here under construction in September 1990 near Oracle. Miller managed construction for the facility.



He founded the John Wesley Miller Cos. in 1955 and built many custom homes in the Tucson area, focusing on energy-efficient building design and solar power.

He began building passive solar structures — using thermal mass and building design to maximize efficiency — at the University of Arizona’s Environmental Research Lab in 1973, and he later managed construction at the Biosphere 2 research facility near Oracle.

In 1981, he organized the first Solar Parade of Homes for SAHBA and was involved in the Tucson Solar Village concept that grew into the new-urban community of Civano in southeast Tucson.

In 2001, he opened Armory Park del Sol, a community of nearly 100 energy-efficient homes including two “net zero energy” homes — which generate at least as much energy as they use — and was the first builder of a net-zero home built in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Lab and the NAHB Research Center for Housing.

Armory Park del Sol won several green-building awards, and Miller was named Builder of the Year for 2003 by the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, after winning the award in 1973.

A public memorial celebration is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Tucson High Magnet School auditorium, 400 N. Second Ave.

Photos: Tucson builder John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller talks about the construction of his newest home located at 413 South Third Avenue in the Armory Park del Sol community in 2017. Miller has been building with solar since the 1970’s and says this home will generate more electricity than it consumes. The home has all the latest energy-saving appliances and was constructed with some recycled building materials. The home was built in conjunction with Green Builder Magazine.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Newspaper articles and ads about John Wesley Miller.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Newspaper articles and ads about John Wesley Miller.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller and Senator Barry Goldwater, 1986.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Interior of Biosphere II near the end of construction, in September, 1990.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Biosphere II complex under construction in Sept., 1990 near Oracle, Ariz. (north of Tucson).



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Jane Poynter, foreground, followed by Taber McCallum, walk to an event introducing the first Biosphere II crew to the public on Sept. 12, 1990, north of Tucson, Ariz.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Shown in 1998, father-daughter team John Wesley Miller and Katherine Kent recently opened the Solar Store, a retail outlet for solar devices. Surrounding them is solar-heated thermal piping used to heat pool water.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Shown in 2002, John Wesley Miller, developer of Armory Park del Sol, holds a drawing of the experimental house that will be built on the lot he is standing on, designed to use solar power and other energy saving features to use zero (or almost zero) traditional energy.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Newspaper articles and ads about John Wesley Miller.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Homes in the Armory Park del Sol subdivision in 2013.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

Homebuilder John Wesley Miller gives Gov. Janet Napolitano a tour of his second “net zero energy” home during its unveiling at Armory Park del Sol near Downtown in 2007. Napolitano presented Miller and his companies with an Arizona Innovation Award for his work in building zero-energy homes, which depend on solar power.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Newspaper articles and ads about John Wesley Miller.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Solar panels on homes in the Armory Park Del Sol development in 2007.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller on a bench at the park in Armory Park Del Sol housing development in 2006. There are more than 90 solar energy homes that reflect the downtown historic architecture. The development is the culmination of decades of work and planning by Miller. “I grew up just a few miles away, and I still know people who grew up in Armory Park.”



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Builder John Wesley Miller, left, talks about his plans for the site with Mayor Bob Walkup during a press conference in 2005 at the old McLellan’s building Downtown. Miller’s vision include a retail and office building that would be part of Downtown’s renaissance.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller at a rainwater harvesting barrel in Armory Park del Sol in 2008.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Builder John Wesley Miller kisses 14 year-old Lizzie Bell as the rest of her family looks before they were to leave on a week-long vacation to New York City. The family’s home (in background) was demolished by the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and was rebuilt in a week. Lizzie suffers from a disease in which she needs a blood transfusion every two to three weeks.



John Wesley Miller

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John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller and Gabriel Giffords ca. 2008.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

Newspaper articles and ads about John Wesley Miller.



John Wesley Miller

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Apr 26, 2022

John Wesley Miller

John Wesley Miller, second from right, talks with Jerry Thayer, 84, as they wait for their food during a weekly meet up Kappy’s Bar & Sandwich Place with fellow 1951 Tucson High School graduates on January 25, 2018. The friends have been getting together for over 20 years.




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