At the last Solar Decathlon architecture competition Team Kentuckiana unveiled a stunning tornado-resistant Phoenix House . The prefab home is designed as a post-disaster permanent housing prototype for families that have lost their homes due to tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes. The gigantic solar array on the home's roof produces way more energy than the home needs, and the idea is that excess power will be distributed to the surrounding area to help devoted communities get back on their feet.
The team includes students from three neighboring universities: the University of Louisville, Ball State University, and the University of Kentucky. Each of the universities provided a special kind of expertise needed for the project – the University of Louisville brought forth their strengths in engineering, business and communication, Ball State University led the process of architectural design and construction management, while the University of Kentucky provided design and engineering support.
After an EF-4 tornado hit Henryville, Indiana, the team began to develop a solution that will be quickly deployable, reliable and that will provide people with the opportunity to restart their lives after a disaster. After talking to some of the survivors of the tornado, the students decided to include disaster resiliency in the design. They drew inspiration for the name from the mythical Phoenix bird – a symbol of resurrection and rebirth from destruction. The prefabricated incorporates recovered elements of destroyed homes.
The Phoenix House is tornado-resistant and deploys several disaster-proof techniques. Its exterior walls are made of fibrous cement panels which can stand up to flying debris. The bathroom walls are made of concrete panels, and the home’s windows are all designed to be shatter-proof. According to the team, solar panels mounted onto the roof of the house will generate 20-30% more energy than the home consumes and return excess electricity to the grid.
The house can accommodate two families during and after a tornado, and it features spacious daylit rooms – a master bedroom, two additional bedrooms with natural light, a loft with storage, large closets and Murphy beds. The team designed it to be safe, functional and stylish.