Tennessee experiences a wide range of climatic conditions throughout the year - from warm, humid summers to cold winters and moderate seasons in between. So when the University of Tennessee set out to design their home for this year's Solar Decathlon, they had to take all of this into consideration. Taking inspiration from vernacular architecture of the area - especially the cantilever barns of southern Appalachia - Team Tennessee came up with a design that utilizes passive techniques wherever possible and active techniques when necessary. Their Living Light Home is a slender volume that relies on daylighting, a dynamic facade, and automatic controls to adapt throughout the day and from season to season.
THe Living Light Home looks like it may be one of the smaller homes we see presented at this year’s Solar Decathlon. The simple rectangular volume features full floor-to-ceiling windows on both the north and south sides to maximize daylighting. Inside, the two utility cores are pushed to either side where they bookend an open living/dining/sleeping room. Essentially a studio with a kitchenette and bathroom, the home is geared towards young professionals who don’t need much space.
The north and south walls are composed of a double-wall glass system with automatic blinds in the cavity. Sensors monitor temperature, weather and daylighting in order to tell the house how to respond. As the sun rises, shades are automatically raised to let daylight into the space. As night falls, innovative lights within the windows turn on and brighten to provide ambient light, while discreet task lighting bumps up the wattage for cooking, reading or other activities. Smart systems also efficiently control the HVAC, and an energy recovery ventilator harvests energy through the double façade system to supply the house with passively warmed or cooled fresh air.
Part of the reason the house is so small is that the team made a choice to limit the size of the house so that they could transport it via truck over roads to get it to DC. The prefab home is one single unit, and when they get to the competition at West Potomac Park they simply need to crane it into place, hook up the utilities, and do a little landscaping. As with all SD homes, this one too is powered via a large, 10.9 kW rooftop photovoltaic system with cylindrical modules that capture light across a 360° surface.