Friday, September 23, 2011

much too expensive, but at least a token step in the right direction...,

Video - Energy efficient home-building decathalon

USAToday | The California house looks like a pillow but has an iPad app to control window shades and 3-D cameras to adjust lighting based on movement inside.

The University of Maryland's "WaterShed" has a waterfall designed to control humidity, and Purdue University's "InHome" has a self-watering biowall with vertically arranged plants.

For New Zealand's vacation-style house, or "Kiwi bach," students sheared sheep and "stuffed (wool) in the walls" for insulation, says team member Nick Officer.

Welcome to the 2011 Solar Decathlon, a showcase of state-of-the-art green building by 19 of the world's most innovative academic teams. The biennial competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, opens to the public today for two weeks in Washington's West Potomac Park, near the National Mall.

The teams — 15 from the USA and one each from Canada, China, Belgium and New Zealand — are vying to see who built the most stylish, efficient and affordable solar-powered house.

Their prototypes, which the students designed and built during a two-year period, then reassembled within a week at the decathlon site, reflect rapid changes in technology.

Unlike the first decathlon in 2002 or even the last one in 2009, almost all of the houses now have smart meters or automation devices that track energy use in real time, plus triple-pane windows and LED (light emitting diode) fixtures.

"The shift has been pretty dramatic," says Fred Maxik, chief technology officer of Lighting Science Group, an LED manufacturer that donated lights to six of the homes. "Today, (LEDs) are ubiquitous."

The solar devices themselves have improved. They include a canopy of 42 bi-facial solar panels collecting sunlight from above and reflected light from below for Appalachian State University's house, and a rounded rooftop system for the University of Calgary entry.

Perhaps the biggest change this year is cost. DOE is emphasizing affordability and will subtract points for houses that cost more than $250,000. Each team accepted into the competition is given $100,000 in grants as start-up funding. DOE estimates each house's final price tag, based on a list of parts.

"It brings parity to the contest," says Richard King, decathlon director. "We don't want people buying it." In 2009, Team Germany won with an ultra-modern, cube-like house that King says cost about $800,000.


Tom said...

I'm always puzzled by this thing.  What's wrong with 2' thick exterior walls stuffed with 1950s-tech pink glass insulation?   

CNu said...

fiberglass isn't much better for the installers/removers (and folk who just have to do stuff in their attics from time to time) than asbestos...,

Tom said...

Yech.  I didn't know that.

nanakwame said...

I believe we weren't meant to accumulate, and stay in 4 wall patterns? Some on these window steel co-ops in NY are ugly; I got to get use to them. Like the cave ideas, those old houses were build pretty, and had to have all that stuff, we began spending more time in them. At least they had some great wood work. The layers of cement in some of the old house were f_king amazing. Now sheee

arnach said...

OTOH, it's easy enough to protect oneself from the 'glas during that short period of time when it's in motion, and the stuff is one third the weight of the cellulose alternative for the same performance (after the latter dries out).  Oh, the installer of the cellulose didn't have the as-built  structural engineering of your house reviewed before your new attic insulation was put in?  Silly them.  Anyway, there are not many houses built these days where the homeowner would be poking around up in there much, so make that a consideration if you need to.  For the other 95%+, there's not much need to worry about the health risks of fiberglass insulation.

arnach said...

Not all of Thomas Edison's ideas were so good, although in the case of concrete housing, there may have been other issues with the implemented examples.

Dale Asberry said...

Or, you can build with strawbales, earth bags or rammed earth. The R values put insulation of any type to shame, they're cheaper to build, they can last for millenia, and amateurs can build them.

Dale Asberry said...

Concrete uses HUGE amounts of energy to make.