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Solar Decathlon 2011: Living in a Glass House

University of Tennessee’s solar house, Living Light, uses layers of glass and an automated shading system to make the most of the sun’s energy

Posted on Jul 19 2011 by Richard Defendorf

University of Tennessee’s Living Light is among the 2011 Solar Decathlon’s more straightforward expressions of form and function, with heavily glazed north and south walls and a compact, steel-framed rectangular shape that allows it to be lifted onto a set of truck-trailer wheels, coupled to a road tractor, and hauled down the highway like a moving van.

In designing Living Light, its first Decathlon entry, Team Tennessee said it was inspired by Cherokee shelters in East Tennessee and the cantilevered barns of Appalachia, where both winter and summer include challenging weather conditions. But the team also focused on how the home’s simple shape could be exploited to make the most of its passive solar and daylightingUse of sunlight for daytime lighting needs. Daylighting strategies include solar orientation of windows as well as the use of skylights, clerestory windows, solar tubes, reflective surfaces, and interior glazing to allow light to move through a structure. potential.

The house is 750 sq. ft. – notably smaller than most homes in the 2011 competition, where the limit on interior space is 1,000 sq. ft. The east and west ends, which contain the mechanical cores, feature R-30 stud walls. The 10.9-kW rooftop array is horizontal, and the white reflective roof under it is nearly so. The array, in this case, uses a copper indium gallium diselenide thin-film absorber wrapped inside cylindrical modules to capture sunlight from all directions.

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Clear, translucent, and layered walls
Living Light’s north and south walls are layered with glazingWhen referring to windows or doors, the transparent or translucent layer that transmits light. High-performance glazing may include multiple layers of glass or plastic, low-e coatings, and low-conductivity gas fill. in unconventional ways. Each wall is actually a double façade: on the outside, a single fixed pane of tempered R-1 glass sits on shock-absorbing mounts; on the inside, R-11.4 triple-pane windows, some of which are operable, sit in wood-veneered aluminum frames. Transparent glass dominates the south façade while translucent glass dominates the north façade, although the operable-window areas on each will be about the same.

One basic aim is to provide abundant daylighting for the structure and maximize passive solar gain when it’s needed in the winter. But the walls actually are as much about shading as they are about flooding the house with light. An automated, horizontal-blind system sandwiched between the inner and outer glass walls controls the amount of light let into the conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. . And as the blind slats warm up in the sun, a ventilation fan directs air to an energy-recovery ventilator to harvest the heat. The space between the inner and outer windows also is equipped with hidden electric lights whose automated operation is coordinated with that of the blinds to smooth transitions from daytime to night and back.

In addition to the energy-recovery ventilator, the HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. system includes two ductless minisplit heat pumps. Team Tennessee says the house is designed for “young professionals with an average income of $100,000 working in the vibrant design, science, and technology industries of Nashville, Tennessee.” But after the Decathlon, it will hit the road rather than the real estate market, embarking on what the team had dubbed the Tennessee Tour. After that, it will serve as a laboratory for new technologies and collecting performance data.

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  1. University of Tennessee

Jul 26, 2011 12:52 PM ET

by David Gregory

“young professionals with an average income of $100,000..."
"750 sqft..."
'black louvers...'
'close at night for privacy...'
'hidden electric lights'
quad-pane (one lite fixed)?

pardon me but my head is spinning...either these guys are brilliant, or...???

So the 'operable' triple-glazed open into the (how wide) air gap? Fresh air via rim-joist level vents, it seems. Corbu tried 'Le Mur Neutralisant'

Black louvers will probably be a contrast-glare nightmare...and using 'harvesting the heat' as an excuse is weak; OrangeMode was doing that from black roofs years ago.

All-glass seems like a privacy nightmare (we've already done this, multiple times...VanDerRohe, Johnson)...and since when do we only want privacy at night?

As for hidden electric lights in the air gap...so what? Controlling the waste heat better? Fine...but you're probably dumping a lot of lumens out of the glass too, aside from what's absorbed by the black louvers...

Finally, I know some folks in Nashville...and they don't make near $100,000 a year. But if they did, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want to live in a box the size and shape of a truck trailer, when that kind of money could cover a mortgage on something far larger (especially in this market)...

In short...until I see some qualitative (real-world, inhabited building performance numbers and cost data), and some qualitative (user survey) data...I can't imagine this moving us forward any...

Prove me wrong?


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