Jorge Chapa

SOLAR DECATHLON 2007: University of Cincinnati

by , 10/17/07

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What’s multi-colored, solar-powered, and green all over? The University of Cincinnati’s zero energy home at this year’s Solar Decathlon. The student team’s solution is not only a stylish-looking residence (the multi-colored “tiles” are recycled Formica), but is also easy to transport, scale, and modify in any way shape or form. Throw in some very green materials and systems, and you’ve got yourself a solar powerhouse!


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The University of Cincinnati’s uber zero energy residence was built out of four 8-foot wide house sections built into trailer beds. This created two challenges for the team. The first problem was that the roof slope had to be slightly lower than that which would be optimal for the solar panels to operate to their maximum efficiency. The second problem proved to be a bit trickier. As the sections of the house were built to be self-sufficient and prefabricated, they had to be tied together once the final construction of the residence was done, and it had to be properly sealed as well, otherwise all the hard work of insulating the residence would be lost. The design team thus created an intricate ‘zipper-like’ steel frame, which could be coupled together when two sections of the residence were joined together.

Of course, if you visit the Solar Decathlon, you will very likely not notice that at all. What you will notice is the signature “second wall” in the southern facade of the house. This wall, which is set a few feet away from the residence is a fence of 120 evacuated tube solar thermal collectors that will be filled with water and serve to provide most of the heating and cooling for this house via the use of an absorption chiller. By having two south facing walls (the “evacuated tube” and the triple pane low e-glass) the team is able to use the sun’s energy, not once, but twice.

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The team also looked at how it could use materials differently. All the furniture was assembled by the students themselves, and rubber flooring covers the entire residence. Even Formica, a material usually reserved for kitchens and cabinets was used to create an exterior rainbow colored rainscreen wall to extend the life of the residence. “Novel, environmentally friendly, and efficient material use was a main goal,” says architectural graduate student Christopher Davis.

Inhabitat just landed at the Solar Decathlon yesterday, so stay tuned for more coverage of the event. And check out our photos of the event here >


+ University of Cincinnati Solar Decathlon: [re]form

+ Solar Decathlon Cincinnati Team

+ Solar Decathlon

+ Solar Decathlon: Inhabitat photo coverage

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11 Comments

  1. jimrox January 23, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I am a arc student at miami and would like to know the manufacture of these panels. Interested in using them in my design.

  2. Eric November 29, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    I realize this reply is a late, but I wanted to set the record straight on the concern of the steel columns creating a thermal bridge between the inside and outside of our house (I am a Cincinnati student that worked on the house).

    All of the exposed interior columns stop at the mid-point of the roof framing leaving about 6″ between the top of the column and the exterior of the house. They attach to a 11″ deep engineered wood beam in such a way that no thermal bridge exists.

    Good observation greg.org

  3. greg.org October 20, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I really liked this house; the design had a lot of inventive solutions, and it looks fantastic. I especially liked the idea of adding modules as needed. But where the Darmstadt house was so incredibly insulated, this Cinn. house design has a real problem, I think: the steel beams that make each frame–and are integral to the module design and structure–will conduct the exterior cold or heat right into the house. Especially in a cold climate, this would be a huge issue, getting your tongue stuck on the kitchen wall.

  4. What’s Green Buil... October 20, 2007 at 4:45 am

    [...] and articles about many of the designs. See University of Cincinnatti’s colorful contribution here, Darmstadt Germany’s stunning design here and University of Colorado’s CORE concept [...]

  5. The Revolution Corporation October 19, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    The colored panels are actually break-metal and flashing scraps that the team gathered from their local roofing companies (not Formica). This house was one of the better entries, but the lack of operable windows (only doors on the South side), took them out of the running. Otherwise, it had a good floor plan, and was one of the more open and light spaces.

  6. Inhabitat » INHAB... October 19, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    [...] Cincinnati’s colorful house [...]

  7. Jamie October 18, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    This house was nice, but the main problem I noticed walking in was the lack of ventilation. Even with a nice 70 degree day it was immediately stuffy in here. No wonder they aren’t doing so well in the Comfort Zone contest. One of the guides explained that Pella donated their windows, but wouldn’t spring for the operable kind. But overall not a bad first time entry. I’m slightly biased though, as I was a member of the U of Maryland house =)

  8. anonymous October 17, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    this looks a bit like the LEED parking structure (completed in 2007) in Santa Monica, CA:

    http://www.kunstler.com/eyesore_200707.html

  9. Get Into College! &raqu... October 17, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    [...] Yahoo! News: Education News wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe University of Cincinnati’s zero energy home at this year’s Solar Decathlon. The student team’s solution is not only a stylish-looking residence (the multi-colored “tiles” are Formica), but is also easy to transport, scale, … [...]

  10. Boink Blogs October 17, 2007 at 7:11 am

    [...] Jorge created an interesting post today on SOLAR DECATHLON 2007: University of CincinnatiHere’s a short outlineThe University of Cincinnati’s zero energy home at this year’s Solar Decathlon. The student team’s solution is not only a stylish-looking residence (the multi-colored “tiles” are Formica), but is also easy to transport, scale, … [...]

  11. Eredux October 17, 2007 at 7:02 am

    Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level…

    http://www.eredux.com/states/

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