STUDENTS DESIGN AND BUILD SOLAR-POWERED HOMES WITH REALISTIC MARKET POTENTIAL
BY Zoe Phoon
The creativity of exuberant young minds is remarkable to say the least.
Four Swiss universities came together to build the overall winner of the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2017 that concluded recently.
This solar decathlon is a collegiate competition made up of ten contests that challenge student teams from across the United States and internationally to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses.
It engages students to develop the skills and knowledge to become the next generation of energy experts.
Over nine days at the site in Denver, Colorado, the judges evaluated the contestants’ houses for their energy performance, liveability and market potential.
The winner is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.
According to the judges, the Swiss team scored a perfect 100 in the energy, architecture and engineering categories.
The Swiss design philosophy is to create a shared space that helps to build and sustain the community around it.
With this, the home creates electricity and heats water directly from sunlight. It contains two greenhouses with fish farms.
The roof collects water and grows food.
The large open areas are partially designed to be a flexible space to host local shops for nearby farmers to sell their produce, or meeting rooms, or your own business.
The home’s current version is estimated at US$800,000 to build but it’s more than a house.
There’s a lot of hardware in this home – solar panels, inverters, multiple battery types, solar thermal panels to heat water and space, and solar glazing on the skylights and other glass surfaces.
The University of Maryland team came in second. Its house emphasises water reuse and home gardening with Native Americans in mind.
The house stood out for its water-reuse system and home gardens.
In addition to solar power, the house features a composting toilet, water filtration system, hydroponic garden, and a greenhouse and courtyard that can harvest energy from heat.
It also has a solar-powered clothes dryer and food dehydrator to encourage food storage and self-sufficiency.
It also has a “kit of parts” design with rooms that can be assembled or disassembled to allow the house’s footprint to change based on the owner’s needs.
The team simulated tasks like cooking, doing laundry and washing dishes to test the house’s energy efficiency and liveability.
Through the course of the exhibition, the house produced more energy than it consumed.
The team created reACT (Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology) to showcase how a sustainable future is more than just designing a better built home.
It is a lifestyle system that incorporates a home with its surrounding environment, interacts with its occupants and gives back more than it takes.
Third place went to the partnership of the College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Denver.
They built the RISE (Residential, Inviting, Stackable, Efficient) home which is a sustainable, net-zero house designed for the densely populated areas of Richmond, California.
The house aims to combat the overcrowding and environmental issues facing many Bay Area residents.
The RISE house is a simple product that can create residential solutions that are stackable and efficient.
The fourth winner is Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Solar House Team’s SILO (Smart Innovative Living Oasis).
SILO’s home automation creates a system of devices that works in tandem to create a more energy efficient house while removing the need to worry about how one device interacts with another.
The result is a comfortable and efficient living space for the homeowner. — p360