Gallery: Solar Harvesting Textiles Energize ‘Soft House’

 

If architect Sheila Kennedy gets her way, textiles will soon be able to take the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity. Kennedy is an expert in the integration of solar cell technology in architecture. And, her team from KVA Matx has designed the Soft House, a structure that can create close to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity by transforming household curtains into flexible, semi-transparent, solar collectors.

Textiles have been a fixture of architecture and design for their ability to define and modify a space. For Sheila Kennedy, textiles are just another material from which energy can be generated. The thin-film photovoltaic textiles are essentially solar panels created from organic photovoltaics. While not as efficient as the silicon based type, they are able to be molded and modified without any manufacturing process.

The Soft House has gone through a number of prototypes, but don’t expect to see it anytime soon. The cost of the solar textiles would, at current, make it cost prohibitive. However, Kennedy’s work on this project shows that renewable energy technologies can be easily integrated into designs in ways that had never been thought of before. Kennedy’s own words best describe our thoughts on the Soft House: “Never underestimate the power of the architectural imagination.”

+ Soft House @ KVA Matx

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


11 Comments

  1. Darren Bednarski August 11, 2011 at 11:26 am

    There are some fascinating cut-off dates in this article however I don know if I see all of them center to heart.

  2. texarc June 15, 2011 at 2:03 am

    We design and fabricate PVC/ETFE/Silicon Glass tension membranes (eg Ferrari, Mermet etc) on large commercial buildings and some domestic applications. They would seem the ideal medium for PV technology, integrated into the fabric, or laminated onto those surfaces incidental to sun.
    do you know of any fabric manufacturers that have looked into this?

  3. komal September 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    its been two years….. how far has this project reached

  4. sarak February 3, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    It’s really interesting idea. I wonder what happens in the case of a desert climate, when
    sun is extremely strong.Can this solar textiles system be feasible strategy then?

  5. Solar Soft House conver... August 3, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    [...] entirely in solar textiles is still too costly at the moment. Cost measured in cash, apparently.Read | Permalink | Email [...]

  6. LMerry June 19, 2008 at 11:55 am

    This is great and very creative! I will add the case study to my “Find Your Dream Job in Solar” class in the “Cool Solar Stuff Coming Someday” section.

    It’s easy to become jaded when you see these great designs because they never seem to get to market. The first step is design/production/field testing, but the longer (and I think trickier) road is taking design to production and to the marketplace.

    If you need a place to test these I volunteer my neighborhood Village Homes (Davis, CA). We all have solar oriented houses that use curtains to reduce the summer heat.

    Keep up the great work. The world is in great need of this.

  7. Jorge Chapa Jorge Chapa June 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    @eastpole, The house would generate about half the power that it needs, so the solar curtain technology is not yet fully efficient. My guess is that as technology gets better, we will see solar textiles that are able to get power from the ambient and reflected sunlight. Remember that this is a prototype for an application, not an actual house, yet.

  8. Scott June 13, 2008 at 6:21 am

    @eastpole
    Good points. But I wouldn’t write off the research on solar harvesting textiles yet. yes a vertical surface has less solar exposure than a horizontal or low sloped surface but it is still a surface and i would assume that the benefits for this are directly proportional to cost. According to this article, the product is cost prohibitive now, but technology takes random leaps forward, so who knows what this research will turn into in 5 years. Also the kvarch website implies, but does not state, that the product produces about half of what an average house uses in a day: http://www.kvarch.net/#project/soft_house

    It also looks like the designer is being smart about this and is putting the curtain outside where it gets the most light and then you can have a real insulated wall and not a house made of windows.

  9. eastpole June 12, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I have another question, Jorge! The textiles are all hung vertically. At noon, one might think, the sun is shining straight down. Will it strike the PV fabrics at all? Or does the house have a strange tendency to generate the *least* power when the sun is shining most strongly, but picking up (you’d hope) when the sun angles are longer?

    It’s a strange design decision. I’d have thought you’d just carpet the (flat, out of sight) roof in panels and then hang some nice white or mylar sheets to cast morning shade and keep the place cool. Am I out of touch?

  10. Solar Soft House conver... June 12, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    [...] Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments [...]

  11. eastpole June 12, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Jorge,

    Very interesting story, nice to see some alternatives to the tried and true rigid panels, even if the textiles are less efficient. But I am puzzled by: “…her team from KVA Matx has designed the Soft House, a structure that can create close to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity…” In a week? A month? A year? 16 kWh isn’t much energy, about half what a typical house here in southern Canada uses in a day. Is this a tropical house or is it adaptable to the temperate zones too? Was the 16 kWh per ____ figure arrived at by modeling sun from California? Germany? It’s nice to see a technology but it would be even nicer to have some sense of scale as to what it can do.

    Regards,
    tai viinikka (http://www.eastpole.ca)

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >