Designing for nature lovers is hard in urban environments, but the 2013 Solar Decathlon team from UNC Charlotte has come up with an excellent solution with UrbanEden - a net zero solar-powered home that can be planted like a tree in any city. In addition to a new geopolymer cement construction material used for sound-proofing, several panels of living walls wrapped around the modular home create an intimate connection to the outdoors even in dense urban settings.
Team UNC oriented UrbanEden to maximize winter solar exposure while reducing solar gain during hot summer months. The 8.7kW rooftop solar array is mounted on a flexible track that can be swung over to provide shade for the south-facing wall in summer and produces all of the energy the home consumes. The orientation also ensures maximum daylighting, while triple paned Intus doors and windows allow natural light without excess thermal gain.
The urban gardening system is probably the most impressive feature of the home, in addition to the innovative use of materials. Every outdoor “room” has its own living wall panel, whether it is a bee and butterfly-attracting flower panel or a panel for self-sustaining herbs and vegetables. Flexibility (modular design plus transforming furniture) and energy efficiency were also important aspects of the design. Team UNC Charlotte believes that people armed with knowledge of how much energy they use are more likely to use it carefully, hence they installed a user-friendly management system. A living, breathing tiny home, UrbanEden provides a breath of fresh air in any environment.