Even those with only a mild case of green-building fever realize that a certain level of tech celebrity is conferred on the academic teams participating in the Solar Decathlon, whose fourth edition is scheduled for October 8-18 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
So much work goes into preparing a Decathlon project proposal for review by the Department of Energy’s team of engineers, scientists, and other experts that being chosen to compete against 19 other teams is itself a major victory. But then the real work – almost two years of further development, including construction and testing of the 800-sq.-ft. net-zero-energy home – will have just begun.
We’ve seen a renderings of a few entries for the 2009 showcase, including those from University of Minnesota, Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts, Rice University, and ”Team Boston” (a collaboration between Tufts University and Boston Architectural College).
But the one that’s currently generating substantial web traffic is Virginia Tech’s Lumenhaus, a rectangular structure that the school’s Solar Decathlon team says was inspired by architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, a Bauhaus-style landmark in Plano, Illinois. One of the principal strategies behind the Lumenhaus design is to exploit sun exposure not only for electricity but to flood the house with as much light as possible without compromising its interior comfort. While the house’s north and south walls are all glass, the Virginia Tech team says, daylight penetration through those walls is controlled by layers of specially developed screens – an automated system of louvers called Eclipsis. (Virginia Tech, which already has competed in two Decathlons, showcased the Eclipsis system June 12 through August 23 in a special exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia.)
Specially designed doors in central core of the house allow its occupants to easily tailor the interior spaces to a variety of uses, from office space to storage to private bedroom. And the building’s modular construction is designed to allow additional units to be stacked on top of the original, where they’d be connected via plug-in stairs, or aligned to expand the house laterally.
The team has produced a slick video, accessible on the Lumenhaus website, that is intended to illustrate the project’s transportability and principal components.