As this year's U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon gets rolling in Irvine, California, the Austrian team gives new meaning to the term “open-concept” with their eye-catching LISI House. From the offset, the team wanted to design a house that places a strong emphasis on outdoor living and social interaction. What they came up with was a pure open plan where the living, dining and kitchen areas seamlessly connect to the north and south patios, essentially creating one giant room that can be fully-exposed and filled with fresh air. However, understanding that occupants might want some privacy once in a while, the student team developed a series of exterior curtains that can be pulled to fully enclose the home, keeping peering eyes out and the interior space cool and breezy. Read on to see our photos of Team Austria's incredible design and find out the latest from our team reporting live from the Solar Decathlon!
The Solar Decathlon 2013 competition officially kicked off 3 October, 2013; to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony, groups of officials and decathletes gathered to take a much deserved break from all the hard work they’ve put in over the last few weeks.
True to form, every year there seems to be a handful of designs that quickly emerge as strong contenders. In fact, since construction was completed on their solar home, the Austrian Team’s LISI House has raised more than a few admiring eco-observing eyebrows. The LISI Home (Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation) is a modular timber construction with a flexible layout that permits residents to fully take advantage of the building’s living space found on the interior as well as the exterior. The design itself is made up of three zones: the service core, the interior living area and two adjoining patios. The end result is a solar home that strikes a unique balance of cool modernity and inviting appeal.
The primary objectives of the LISI “living cocoon” design are climate regulation and high utility of liveable space. With one central living area that can be extended to the two adjacent patios to the north and south, the LISI design offers optimal communal space as well as ventilation and light control.
A ramp leads into the main interior space where a moveable shade curtain envelopes the entire structure, adding a breezy Mediterranean feel. In addition to LISI’s various architectural layers, the shade from the curtain helps to optimize interior temperatures, providing shade on hot summer days and subsequently reducing cooling loads.
Along with the interior living areas, the two open patios add a major component to the quality of life integral to the LISI design itself. By subtly blending nature into the daily living areas, residents can fully embrace the surrounding natural environment in their day-to-day life. Multiple garden space and a vertical garden are installed on the patios, which allow residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables. The plants also serve as a natural filtration system, providing a healthy atmosphere for families and visitors.
The modular LISI home is entirely constructed and insulated with wood. The decision to work with wood was based on its multiple eco-positive characteristics. Since wood is a carbon-neutral material and a 100% natural product, it’s ideal as a building material in terms of construction, maintenance and transport.
Additionally, choosing to work with wood meant the team could utilize the entire product in many forms giving the design aesthetic a cohesive feel throughout. In fact, every part of the tree was used, from the roots and leaves used in the LISI foundation, curtain and cornice materials to the trunk itself, used in the core construction of the ceiling, floors and walls. The chairs and most of the furniture are made from molded wood chips. The wood’s cohesive natural presence, along with the open concept and natural light, also has a positive effect on the residential atmosphere, adding to the house’s many natural health benefits.
In terms of energy savings, LISI is a “plus-energy” construction, generating more than enough electricity for daily energy needs. A mounted PC array is installed on top of the roof, which is comprised of four ceiling modules. In collaboration with the intelligent energy-saving floor plan, interior temperatures are also controlled by an ERV unit, a heat and humidity exchanger. Water waste is limited in a number of ways, most notably through an innovative shower tray that captures thermal energy from daily drain water.
From the looks of this year’s Solar Decathon entries, SD 2013 is shaping up to be a fierce contest. But we definitely think that Team Austria’s house will be a top contender in terms of health, comfort and environmental features.