Gallery: Team New Jersey’s Concrete ENJOY House Bucks the Tide at the 2...

image © Jessica Dailey for Inhabitat
Team New Jersey is bucking the tide at this year’s Solar Decathlon by shrugging off lightweight construction and relying on concrete to realize a super efficient and robust home. The ENJOY house, with the “NJ” for its home state, is the product of a collaborative effort between Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The house is the idealized version of a small family home on the Atlantic coast that connects effortlessly with its site, but protects from some of the worst the ocean can throw at it. The home also has a great modernist flair with an exposed concrete interior, pixelated window scheme, soaring reverse hip roof and, of course, lots of green technologies.

Turns out concrete is pretty savvy choice for the team who was looking for a high performance shell which was still very affordable—a potential deal breaker if teams exceed a $250k budget. The team created the walls using Northeast Precast, a commercial supplier who sandwiches a foam core between two poured concrete slabs.

The trick to the building is installing all of the mechanical infrastructure as the walls are poured so the entire system can link together at the construction site. The team used BIM or Building Information Modeling software to map out all of the wall, roof, and floor components to make sure that everything precisely lined together before building the walls. A major hurdle was to develop a connection system which could be reversed, a first for this type of wall.

While the concrete’s mass and 6-inch foam core is central to providing consistent temperature, a radiant under floor heating system supplied by a vacuum or evacuated tube solar system provides extra BTUs. The home relies on natural ventilation to whisk the day’s heat away. Team member Zachary Hvizadak described entering the house on a hot day like “walking into a cave,” noting that during the major heat wave this summer, the ENJOY house was a consistent 15 degrees cooler than outside without using any AC. The rooftop mounted 8.2 kw solar electric array powers the systems which are centrally controlled.

The exposed concrete interior is to demonstrate the benefits of using precast concrete, but it also leaves the space feeling a bit raw, and not exactly child friendly. Interior finishes are sparse– a simple stained concrete floor and white painted ceiling, cap the light filled space. A set of precast, built-in shelves wraps around a corner wall of the main living space, creating an eye-catching central element that doubles as an entertainment unit.

While 60 square feet shy of the 1000 square foot limit, the design’s flared roof line makes for a dramatic presence. The roof forms a valley in the center with hip sections jutting past the exterior wall to provide generous outdoor living spaces. The tall walls with square windows penetrating throughout are wrapped with a ribbon of daylight windows giving the impression of a floating roof. The tall windows provide for perfect interior natural lighting, further enhancing the feeling of a space larger than it really is.

+ Team New Jersey ENJOY House

+ Solar Decathlon Coverage on Inhabitat

All images © Jessica Dailey for Inhabitat, unless noted

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