Before air conditioning, Floridians looked to tropical breezes and shade aids for indoor comfort. Team Florida has updated "the wisdom of Florida vernacular design with modern technology."
Durable, adjustable, louvered shutters fabricated from native Florida cypress provide the shade. Some panels glide. Native cypress is naturally resistant to insects and weathering.
Twenty-two photovoltaic panels power the house. Each pair of panels has one micro inverter "to optimize performance so that all panels perform at maximum output, improving the overall efficiency of the array." The micro inverters allow pairs of panels to be monitored and operate independently. Dust, leaves or shade that reduce a single pair's output do not disproportionately affect the entire system's output.
Hot water generated by solar thermal panels can also heat the home's interior through heat exchangers in the air ducts. But these ducts are themselves also far from ordinary; ducts have added innovation to fight the humidity that is probably Florida's biggest challenge to human comfort. To control an average relative humidly of 75 percent, the FleX House team created a "a liquid desiccant duct system" combined with an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to dehumidify incoming air. The transparent liquid desiccant releases its captured humidity in a glass-faced recovery waterfall that also doubles as an interior design feature. The liquid desiccant system improves efficiency of the HVAC system by removing moisture from the supply air allowing the fan coil temperatures to exceed the dew point while still maintaining good indoor air quality.
In really nice weather, as some of Decathlon V experienced, walls of windows glide open making much of FleX House into a comfortable open pavilion. Sliding walls enclose the bedroom space.
The 930 square-foot, steel-framed home shipped as a single container. The home's bedroom and entry were tucked inside the house box like RV slide-outs. Once outsite, the team added the "umbrella." Testing had revealed that complete shading roof and walls results in the greatest reduction in heat gain. "FLeX House incorporates an umbrella like outer structure composed of cypress wood louvers and photovoltaic panels that shade the roof and walls minimizing heat gain through the building envelope."
The University of South Florida, Florida State University, The University of Central Florida and The University of Florida joined forces to form Team Florida. The team targeted their home as a starter home for a moderate-income couple; jurors ranked the home 11th out of 19 in the Affordability with a construction price of $334,000.00.
To see more of our coverage of Solar Decathlon V, click here.