Forget the bad-boy image of those SUVs. It’s buildings that really pump energy from the planet.
|Architecture graduate students Nick Germann, Eric Stear and Luke Field attach a steel support.|
In recognition of buildings’ energy dependency, 20 select universities from around the world – housing the globe’s best business, design and engineering programs – are engaged in a pioneering competition, each vying to innovate, design and build the best solar house possible. (The competition is called the Solar Decathlon.)
The University of Cincinnati – with its internationally recognized programs in design along with its nationally known business and engineering programs – is one of those 20 schools and has mobilized more than 200 students in its on-campus construction effort. When that house is complete in October, it will travel (along with the 19 other houses) to Washington D.C.’s National Mall where hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to walk through it.
Among those leading UC’s effort are faculty and students from the College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
That’s precisely the aim of the international Solar Decathlon competition: To promote research and development related to alternative energy, specifically solar energy, in a home that must function as a residence and as a home-based business.
Thus, ALL the house’s needs must ultimately derive from the sun: Fully functioning appliances, mechanics like air conditioning and heating; as well as a commuter vehicle. In addition, the house must be constructed and designed using sustainable materials.
Within its 800-square-foot house, UC innovations include
|Students Eric Stear, left, and Luke Field, right, with a photovoltaic panel.|
The simple solution posed by UC’s Solar Decathlon team consists of a small space of separation between the conventional PV panels and the insulated, waterproof roof. This allows for air flow between roof and panels and actually means that the PV panels serve to shade the roof.
“It’s light, not heat, that causes the PV panels to operate at peak efficiency. So, this helps us make maximum use of light while reducing heat (by encouraging air flow between the roof and the PV panels),” stated Harfmann, adding that the system would allow a home owner to replace PV panels at any point as panels improve in terms of technology and efficiency. And those panels are “getting better and more efficient all the time,” he said.
The design and creation of this structure and its systems is providing a “power-full” challenge to students, but one that is worth it, according to engineering student Andy Schroder. “I want to have cheap electricity,” he said.
The actual design of the house is that of a contemporary loft-style home, including a kitchen, living area and dining area. A continuous expanse of windows extends all around the perimeter of the house just under the roofline (and thus, serves as the top portion of the wall). This uninterrupted (and wide) expanse of windows not only makes the house seem larger but also, obviously, makes for maximum use of natural light vs. electrically powered luminescence.
|Chad Vaugh, left, and Joe Bissaillon pre-cut screw holes into recycled steel beams.|
The house design also incorporates a shaded, outdoor deck that extends from the living area, making the space appear even larger. The modular form of the house would allow for ease of expansion if required for a growing family. Finally, the skeleton of the house is comprised of recycled steel columns and beams.
Other aspects of the UC solar house made possible by sponsors:
The students’ work will be showcased on the National Mall in Washington D.C. from Oct. 12-20. There, each house will be judged on 10 criteria related to energy creation and conservation by means of innovative architecture, engineering, communications and hot-water creation.
Said UC architecture student Matt Mutchler, “The standards for the future could be created here.”