One of the major tenets of extreme green is living small. Team Living Light from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, buffed the living small theme into high art.
Living Light deliberately chooses a tech aesthetic to entice green consumers in Nashville's emerging high tech economy. Broad expanses of glass illuminate the home's interior and draw the eye to outdoor garden views, but they are merely the pretty face of a "ventilated double facade system composed of alternating translucent and transparent panes and horizontal blinds." An energy recovery system (ERV) "harvests air through the double-facade system to supply the house with passively [conditioned] fresh air." The system reverses flow from summer to winter to harvest passively-heated filtered air from the window cavity.
The roof is completely covered by a 10.9 kW system made of Solyndra (yes, that Solyndra) panels. It was the only home in competition to use the tubular PV panels. The PV panels overhang the walls on all sides shading the double-facade from heat, except in winter when the sun's angle is lower. The cylindrical tubes capture sunlight from all directions, producing more energy than the typical flat-plate panel. Cylindrical PV offers a few novel advantages: lower installation costs, higher wind resistance plus more effective collection at sunrise and sunset and less sensitivity to solar orientation. While re-organizing in bankruptcy Solyndra retains its factory, production lines, Website and intellectual property.
The HVAC systems boast a SEER 22 rating, so it is little wonder that this home successfully achieved net-zero status. The Living Light team expects the home to use only half the power it produces and sell back the rest to the local utility. Extra power could also be used to charge an electric car. Over 30 years, the team estimates home residents $90,000 on energy costs. The home came in third in the Engineering Contest.
Also unique to the competition, Living Light's kitchen and bath occupy separate ends of the unit, leaving the flex-space middle open to light, air and views. The kitchen and mechanical core are near the home's East entry. The home's private core on its West side hides the bathroom and the bed. Little space was wasted on the bed, which unfurls from a cabinet like a window shade.
Jewels often come at high cost and the same is true of Living Light, placing in last in Affordability with an estimated construction costs of $470,464.58. But modular builders were carefully studying the home. Post Decathlon V, Living Light has gone on tour.
To see more of our coverage of Solar Decathlon V, click here.