The American University of Cairo has entered its Sustainable, Livable & Interactive Design (Slide-s) House into the upcoming European Solar Decathlon in Madrid. As the first entrant from North Africa, the students have created a solution to living in hot and arid conditions combining ancient techniques with modern design principles. The inner glass hub of the living area is surrounded by a movable latticework screen based on traditional Egyptian design that aims to maximize passive cooling in summer and solar gain in winter. A PV array on the roof provides for the home's energy requirements and a grey-water recovery system reduces water use. Could this design help solve some of the day-to-day problems of living in North Africa?
The latticework outer body interlocks using designs based on ancient stonework found in Egypts classical structures and slides apart in a matchbox fashion. The main building material used is a reinforced polymer made at AUC consisting of a composite of waste wood and plastic recovered from the local region, adding to the sustainable philosophy behind the design. In a further throwback to ancient ideas they have incorporated the use of papyrus in the creation of the movable screen.
To maximize passive heating and cooling, the sliding screen remains closed throughout the summer. Natural light enters the Slide-s house via the latticework but the living space is largely protected from the hot sun and a simple ventilation outlet allows the hot air to escape through the roof. In winter the screen is opened during daylight hours maximizing solar gain which is supplemented by heat absorbtion in thermal mass flooring. The absorbed heat is then utilised at night when the screen is closed again to keep the living space warm.
The simple but elegant design for the living area easily incorporates the requirements for a pleasant and relaxing abode. The extendable part of the Slide-s house could also be considered for use as a temporary conservatory, adding to the appeal of this unique design. The grey-water recovery system is implemented within the house, recycling water for drip-irrigation and toilet flushing. A PV array located on the roof will provide the electricity for the house and as air conditioning is traditionally a large drain on resources it is hoped the innovative design will negate this requirement and go some way to solving problems inherent with living in such climates.
The Solar Decathlon begins in Madrid on September 14th, where the house will be judged across ten categories ranging from sustainability, innovation, comfort and market viability.