Echoing Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous essay Self-Reliance, Middlebury College' farmhouse invites visitors to vibrate to it's own iron string. The two-bedroom home is pure Yankee ultra-efficiency for a family of four, although its traditional gable roof goes high-tech with a 30 panel, 7.93-kW PV system and evacuated tube solar hot water heating.
The palette of recycled lumber, sustainably-harvested timber and local stone resonated with judges and visitors. Not only did this team take top Market Appeal honors, it also scored first in Communications and Home Entertainment. It rated fifth in Affordability with an estimated construction cost of $282,570.07 and took fourth in the overall competition. Not a shabby debut for the first Liberal Arts College to ever enter Solar Decathlon without an engineering or architecture partner school.
What visitors found most appealing was the green wall -- a large South-facing kitchen window with a cornucopia of herbs and other edible plants; that could be shaded by an exterior, louvered shutter. Another sign of self-reliance was the use of condensate from the home's air-to-air heat exchanger to "feed the green wall with condensed moisture." The green wall joins a large kitchen island (Vermont slate, of course) to create the home's heart. Close to hand are all the implements of canning, cooking, baking and abundant results on display: home-canned goods and other food stuffs -- all hallmarks of household Self-Reliance.
Triple-paned windows with cork-insulated frames have a high R-value of 7 and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.53, that allows them to provide net heat gain over the course of a year. Stack effect ventilation pulls in cooler air toward the ground and vents out warmer air from the skylights. Though the house did not prove to be a net-zero home at Decathlon V, the team says it will be a net-zero home in Middlebury, Vt.
Post Decathlon V, Self-Reliance has settled onto the Middlebury College campus as a prime educational asset. Every semester four students honored will live in the house and continue Decathlon V with community outreach projects spreading the home's mission,. They will host meals featuring produce from the green wall and lectures by visiting architects, authors, and environmentalists.
For more information on the Solar Decathlon, visit our Solar Decathlon Landing Page, or view the January 2011 issue of Green Builder magazine.