We are happy to report that Harold Powell, lead designer for Telios Environmental, was awarded with a Resolution of Commendation from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for his leadership in energy-efficient building design. The latest residence exceeded California’s Energy-Efficient Standards by 41%. It incorporated several energy-efficient techniques such a passive solar heating, photovoltaic system, and solar water heating.
Light was the central theme of the Lumenhaus designed by the team from Virginia Tech. It uses a pavilion design featuring sliding glass walls on the north and south. The PV system includes “double hit” PV panels which generate 30% more electricity than the standard approach. www.solar.arch.vt.edu
This solar home used what they called a Butterfly Roof to channel water to a reflecting pool which irrigated plants on the deck. www4.uwm.edu/uwmsd09/
The Gable Home uses 90% less energy than typical construction, and produces up to four times its energy needs. The team “set out to prove that there was no schism between new technologies and traditional ways of building houses” www.solardecathlon.uiuc.edu
The team from University of Minnesota also wanted to appeal to consumers who might want a more “traditional home” They used a combination of traditional and translucent bifacial solar panels on an offset gable roof and south walls. www.solardecathlon.umn.edu
The Refract house was designed to take full advantage of California’s great weather. The large doors leading out to a patio area encourage outdoor living. A greywater pond nourishes the landscape. www.refracthouse.com
The aptly named Curio House was designed to trigger curiosity about energy use in the home. It features a monitoring system that tracks energy use in real-time so that occupants can understand their energy use and make appropriate adjustments to reduce their energy bills and lower their environmental impact. www.livecurio.us
This house from University of Kentucky features a computer monitoring system which uses weather forecasts to make decisions about the building system’s operations. The design “embodies Kentucky’s historic indigenous breezeway house design” www.uky.edu/solarhouse
The BeauSoleil house incorporates hurricane protection via sliding louvered shutters and structural insulated panels in the building envelope www.beausoleilhome.org
Art meets technology…gotta love Team Spain! Possibly the most innovative solar system, the home uses a squat glass pyramid inverted and set on a ball and socket mechanism pivoted by a solar tracking system. www.solardecathlon.up
There were twenty projects presented at the Decathlon so this is just a sampling of them, but as you can see there were a variety of architectural styles. It is so great for people to see and understand that really smart design can actually make a house function better, be healthier for its inhabitants and the planet, and appeal to many different aesthetics. This was a really fantastic event and a great resource for information and inspiration!
Well, it can be, and here it is.
I arrived at Dulles, boarded a sleek modern mass transit system, and arrived at the Smithsonian on a really cold (for this California boy) winter’s day. It seemed ironic that the chance for real change was exhibited here in the capitol of the status quo. Positioned between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building were prototypes of what could and should be the future housing of America and the world. The forecast of a freezing rain hadn’t dampened the spirits of the people presenting their projects or the curious attendees. I came here to experience and see first hand the array of innovative design and technologies and I was not disappointed. As stimulating as all this incredible design work and compilation of exciting green technologies was, what had the most powerful impact on me, and what gives me the greatest hope, was the exuberant enthusiasm of all the young people participating in this endeavor. That excitement comes out of knowing that they are on the forefront of creating the solutions to one of the greatest dilemmas that plague modern man. The solar decathalon website. offers an in-depth look at the projects and is well worth a view. I could probably write a book about everything presented, but for now here are a few highlights.
Team Cornell’s use of corrugated metal silos as their design focus was a brilliant use of the agrarian vernacular. The silos are pleasing to the eye and have great inherent structural integrity, while utilizing minimal materials. There is something about living in a curvilinear environment lacking in right angles which is reminiscent of life in a beautiful sailboat where everything has its place and form follows function.
Taking the idea of form following function to the extreme, Team Germany’s house won the competition by being the largest net energy producer. The most obvious feature is their extensive PV panel deployment on the outside of the house, but the really interesting stuff is inside. The interior finish is a drywall material made of phase changing eutectic salts that stored thermal solar energy. This material changes phases when heated and stores energy, then as it cools it once again goes through a phase change and releases that stored energy. Having done prototyping work with phase changing materials in the 70’s, it was exciting to see this technology being used.
I felt like I was stepping into the future as I entered the Arizona Team’s house; the first thing you see is the long undulating southern facing water wall. Engineered and prototyped by one of the team members, it served as a “heat sink” , deterring heat during the day and releasing it slowly at night. It was designed with vacuüm formed panels that solved the problem of excessive weight of water and could be evacuated to create an insulating barrier. They also had a unique window curtain of heat activated bimetal which automatically closed with a rise in temperature. A greenhouse served as a biosphere, filtering greywater, improving air quality and encouraging food production. The unique challenge of designing for a desert environment where you can get “too much of a good thing” pushed water conservation and cooling strategies to the limit in this house. My mother lives in Lake Havasu where it can regularly reach 120 degrees. The energy demand in these environments is enormous and growing, making these type of innovative solutions all the more critical.
Well really, Mr Powell goes to Washington for the 2009 Solar Decathalon. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon has been taking place since 2002 and is a wonderful showcase for innovative solar energy powered home design. Twenty college teams from around the world design, build and operate homes that are powered exclusively by the sun. These homes are designed to use off-the-shelf technology to produce all or more of their energy needs over a year, qualifying them as zero-energy homes.(ZEH’s) Each team competes in ten separate contests and a contest for the highest points overall. The contests include categories such as Architecture, Market Viability, Comfort Zone, and Net Metering. Stay tuned for on the ground coverage….