Team China's Y-Container might just as easily been called Transformer House because the six shipping containers holding all the team's parts and materials morphed into a high-performance house in less than three days.
The 10-million sturdy, waterproof shipping containers recycled annually offer an abundant potential housing resource, although in a residential style that is not universally accepted. But Y-Container worked well inside, seeming enormous with sight lines running the 60-foot combined length of two containers. To soften the utilitarian aesthetic, louvered panels camouflaged and shaded the entry while the indents of the distinctive facade provided separation for three distinct garden zones. And what's not to like about a zero-waste dwelling?
The Y is formed as pairs of containers meet, creating a central triangular junction that the team describes as "a natural ventilation tunnel' that "regulates air distribution and the fresh air supply without consuming energy” topped by a phase-change glass skylight array. Several active triangular panels in the skylight lift automatically when the house reaches a certain set temperature to naturally vent hot air.
Mobile panels wheeling about in floor and ceiling tracks were another Chinese introduction. Initialy, the panels look like and are sliding closet doors. They slide out and pivot. Placed end to end at the central junction, the panels function as bypass bedroom doors opening to reveal dual wall beds with storage between and to either side. Aligned along the module's centerline, they then divided the single bedroom into two. Finally, each panel could individually roll to the far end of the module, covering one or both wallbeds to create either a second Great Room or an open office plus small, private bedroom.
Team China's price breakdown in its clever pivoting brochure put costs at $248,426. But including the gardens and decks in the Affordability judging pegged Y-Container at 14th, at $345,610.36. Affordability judge Matt Hansen remarked that many materials and components were hard to price because he had never seen them before, specifically phase-change drywall modulating solar heat loads on the steel exterior.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) China's National Energy Administration (NEA) will host Solar Decathlon China (SD China). Peking University will organize the event. China is already a global leader in solar panel production and clearly has set its sights even higher.
To see more of our coverage of Solar Decathlon V, click here.