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Practice : Winter 2009
fEaTURE ] SOlaR DEcaThlON the broader goals of sustainability. Integral to the design concept is an adaptable “human” living space around a prefab-friendly technological core. This allows for the most essential elements of the design to be placed in any physic a l c ontext and subsequently permits end users of the hous e to dictate the design of its more intimate parts according to their preferenc es. The relationship between the solid manufactured c ore and its surrounding flowing living spac e is made comprehen- sible through a range of media. The most ac ce ssible is an ambient feedba ck system. This interface communicates basic information about the home’s systems in a manner to allow its inhabitants to make more informed decisions about light, heat, cooling, relative humidity... effecting overa ll living pattern s in a nonobtrusive fashion. The team is also exploring a graphica lly-friendly interface for iPhone and other devices, the goal being to enhance the ability of a person to ma ke informed decisions, not settle for the ability of a house to dictate one’s habits. The design of the hous e includes exa mples of off-the-shelf technologies that a re both efficient and the most cost-e ffective. These include energy-generating photo- voltaic s, fl atplate solar therma l collectors, structural insulated panel con struction, a nd radiant floor heating. The engineers have al so been exploring the pos sibility of showc a sing technologies that are more state- of-the-a rt, such as a liquid desiccant system which has the potential to be highly efficient and commercially accessible in the near future. The Dec athlon team’s policy group has focused on universa l c onc ept design, “true costing,” loc al-to-B oston reg ul ations, a nd running a series of community focus groups. These focus groups have e xplored ways the design can e volve for different sites and different clients’ needs, including economic constraints. This approach will contribute greatly to the search for a local site for the house after the competition. With a large group of st udents contribut- ing to the design, members of the team are now foc using on developing a web site to track its progress, as well as to educate the public. They are also embarking on a large fundraising effort to acquire materials and components for the house, as well as cash donations for the myriad e xpense s a ssociated with the project not c overed by the U.S . Department of Energy’s $100,000 seed grant. The goal of all this effort is to arrive on the Wa shington Mall in September with a reproducible hous e that a verage consumers cou ld take home with them, either figuratively or physic ally. This past December 2008, final construc- tion documents were submitted to the competition organizers for re vie w. Following a s hort winter brea k, portion s of the house will be under construction at an indoor facility at Tufts University, a nd showc a sed at the BAC, before being fully erected on Tufts campus throughout the late spring and summer. Join us then, won’t you? process Sketches by Damian liddiard The Solar Decathlon is a project of the U.S . Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. bac Student m. a rch pRacTIcE 40