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U.S. Panel Maker Joins Solar Competition in China

The manufacturer becomes the industry partner for a team entering next year's Solar Decathlon China

Posted on Jul 7 2017 by Scott Gibson

Ecocor, the Maine-based maker of high-performance structural panels, is going to China.

The company says it has signed on as the industry partner for Team MTL, a group of students from McGill University and Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, that's entering the Solar Decathlon China competition next year.

Team MTL is one of 22 groups that are designing and building high-performance homes for the competition. It's the second Solar Decathlon to take place in China after an inaugural event in 2013. Modeled on the U.S. Department of Energy's biennial Solar Decathlons here, Solar Decathlons also take place in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Latin America and the Caribbean.

MTL's entry uses the Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates.-certified structural panels manufactured by Ecocor for its own line of panelized houses to create an adaptable housing form called the Siheyuan courtyard style common to many parts of China.

The team's entry, the Deep Performance Dwelling, is designed with both Montreal and China in mind, according to a description of the project at its website.

"TeamMTL begins with the premise that the project design and construction must be applicable to the contemporary Montreal urban, social, and affordable housing context and northern climate as well as to the competition context in China," the description reads. "Each site exists within the same climatic zone."

There will be two permanent structures: the first built for the competition and a second one designed specifically for Montreal that could serve as a model for affordable housing in Canada. The design combines elements of a typical Montreal row house and the Siheyuan courtyard style of housing common to many parts of China.

Making houses that can be taken apart

Ecocor's wall panels consist of a 2x4 structural wall and an I-joist outer wall, both of which are insulated with dense-packed cellulose. They're assembled in the company's Searsmont, Maine, factory and trucked to the site where they are assembled into a building shell. Ecocor and architect Richard Pedranti have collaborated on a line of Passive House certified houses that use the panels, and the same basic panel design is going into the Solar Decathlon entry.

There is one big difference: Ecocor's houses are meant to be built once, but the nature of the Solar Decathlon competition means the house will be erected once in Montreal, where it is already on display, then taken apart and shipped to China, where it will be built all over again. Ecocor adapted its panel design to make assembly and disassembly possible a number of times without affecting performance.

Teams are required to design a two-story, solar-powered house with a floor area of between 1,290 and 2,150 square feet. The structures are to be used as a single-family dwelling in an urban area.

The house will be on display in Montreal through October, then taken apart and shipped via train and boat to Dezhou in advance of the competition next summer. Later, the house will be sold to the city of Dezhou and used as a residence. Team MTL will use the money, along with additional contributions, to build more versions of the house in Montreal. Those will be given to families in need of affordable housing. The buildings also will be used for long-term research.

A Solar Decathlon is taking place in the U.S. this year in Denver, Colorado, in October.

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Image Credits:

  1. Team MTL

Jul 9, 2017 12:40 PM ET

More on the wall design
by Jon R

More on the wall design here:

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