One of the most amazing parts of the Solar Decathlon entries this year is how the teams are going above and beyond to design solutions that are more than just homes. Team Tidewater Virginia, who draws member from Old Dominion University and Hampton University, have designed a prototype home to test theories and systems for what will eventually become affordable, multi-family residences. The core mechanical systems are housed in a small room next to the house, which relies on solar photovoltaic, solar hot water and a strong dose of solar passive design. Although Unit 6 is a modular house with traditional architecture written all over it, expect it to be a strong contender given its use of smart systems, rainwater collection and greywater recycling.
The team took inspiration for its design from the arts and crafts-style homes found throughout the center-city neighborhoods of Norfolk, Virginia. Craftsman style lines, windows and decor put this home in a more traditional light, which could likely appeal to a wide audience – especially those living in historic neighborhoods. But after you get past the aesthetics, there’s nothing about this home that is traditional. Passive solar design plays a starring role with south facing windows that take in the sun during the winter, and large overhangs and shades that block it out in the summer. A retractable window in the living room transforms the space into an open-air porch, and a pocket window into the kitchen encourages natural ventilation.
Modular construction, allows Team Tidewater to pick up each room for easy transport up to DC, and a high performance facade will maintain the thermal balance. High performance windows regulate the heat and the cold, while smaller windows on the north side allow daylighting to permeate the home. The mechanical core with the inverters, solar hot water tanks, and other systems are housed in a small room off to the west of the house next to the porch. Window and door sensors provide security information and tell the HVAC system how to operate if the home is open or closed.
Unit 6 is designed as a prototype for a much larger, 6-unit multi-family housing project. These buildings have six units stacked on either side of a central circulation and mechanical core. Each unit has a deep porch, to provide shade to the living room and encourage natural ventilation, while other windows are shaded from the sun. Just like in Unit 6, the mechanical core is stored off to the side of the house and shared with the other apartments as a way to increase the affordability. Team Tidewater has been researching systems and performance for two, six-pack buildings that are being prepared for construction in Norfolk.