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Solar Decathlon Homes -- They’re Not Just for Show

December 13, 2012 - 4:01pm

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Cornell’s 2009 Silo House is now a private residence on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. | Photo courtesy of Jim Tetro, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Cornell’s 2009 Silo House is now a private residence on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. | Photo courtesy of Jim Tetro, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Last week on the Energy blog, we covered the Empowerhouse’s transition from a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition house to a permanent home in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 7. But the Empowerhouse isn’t the only demonstration house that has found new life after the competition. Many are now private homes, university housing or educational tools.

Missouri S&T’s 2009 Show-Me House -- like the university’s three previous Solar Decathlon entries -- returned to campus and now serves as student rental housing with priority given to members of the Solar Decathlon teams. From the beginning the house was designed to be fully ADA compliant through the use of lowered counter heights and a generally open floor plan. An automated system allows the washer, dryer and dishwasher to run during times of peak electricity production. The sun is used to heat both hot water and the radiant floor heating system through the use of evacuated tube collectors.

Cornell’s 2009 Silo House is now a private residence on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Forty solar panels rise above three cylinders and a courtyard to provide Silo House with 8 kW of power. The house was inspired by the grain silos that are common to the agricultural communities of upstate New York. The house’s design -- a modular structure with three connecting cylindrical rooms -- posed challenges for the team by limiting the number of solar panels that could be installed on the roof. The home’s unique HVAC system -- designed specifically for the Silo House -- allows air delivery to be controlled for each room individually, giving greater temperature and climate control, and energy savings. You can see a video fly-through of the house’s design here: http://cusd.cornell.edu/silo/

The University of Kentucky’s 2009 s•ky blue house -- which lives on the university campus’ main lawn for continued monitoring, research and inspiration -- was temporarily repurposed as the visitor’s center at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, one of the premier international horse competitions. The house, designed to capture the beauty and spirit of the Bluegrass State, features a central open space that naturally ventilates the house on sultry summer days. Photographs of Kentucky landscapes are integrated into a series of perforated screens on its exterior walls, and the home features a sky-viewing ribbon of continuous clerestory windows.

Through the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, student teams are demonstrating that ultra-efficient solar housing is livable and affordable. To find out where more Solar Decathlon competition houses are now, visit: http://www.solardecathlon.gov/where_now.html

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