For the next 10 days the National Mall in Washington, D.C. will showcase innovative, design-forward and energy efficient solar homes, along with the many bright young college students who built them. Solar Decathlon 2011 is hosting 20 collegiate teams from around the world building solar houses to compete in 10 categories that will ultimately determine the winning design that:
- is affordable, attractive, and easy to live in;
- maintains comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions;
- supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning, and entertainment;
- provides adequate hot water;
- produces as much or more energy than it consumes.
I have to give a shout out to Team Canada, made up of 50 students from the University of Calgary whose solar design is inspired by the traditional native tipi, but with a rounded roof and south-facing windows to use the sun as a source of energy. Inside, the home is open-concept and marries tradition with technology. Materials and colour palettes reflect native customary art and the natural environment, yet innovative technologies such as an air-to-water heat pump and photovoltaic system illustrate how we need to think about energy in our homes today and into the future. The house is certainly one that values culture and promotes sustainability.
|Team Canada TRTL House|
The lesson on energy efficiency from the solar homes is obvious: we need to start using technologically advanced systems that allow us to use water and energy wisely. But what design lesson can we take away from these unique homes?
Adapt to our environment.
The homes all seem to reflect the geographical area from which they came. In addition to Team Canada’s inspired-by-nature home, Team Florida’s home is very open in order to promote the healthy indoor-outdoor Florida lifestyle. Team New Zealand’s house uses natural, low-maintenance materials (recycled sheep’s wool as insulation) and is designed to work with the elements and changing climate. Team China’s Y-shaped solar house is made from pre-fab shipping containers, so that the home can expand or contract depending on family needs at the time. And Team New York’s Solar Roofpod is intended to be used on top of existing urban midrise buildings, taking advantage of largely unused space.
|Team New Zealand|
Smart take-aways from our next generation of architects, engineers, designers and innovators.