Net-zero homes are beloved for making utility bills a thing of the past, but it’s unfortunate that such sustainable architecture is often too expensive for the people who need those savings the most. That’s why a team of UC Davis students has banded together to develop a solar-powered net-zero energy house that is affordable for everyone. Their design/build prefab prototype, called Aggie Sol, was specifically created for low-income agricultural farm workers on the west coast and boasts an impressive array of energy-efficient technologies.
Affordability was the main objective in both the design and construction process, but our favorite feature is the rooftop sprinkler cooling system that provides evaporative cooling by spraying collected rainwater onto the roof surface at night. The house then reuses that chilled water by filtering and then pumping it through a radiant floor slab to cool the interior during the day. To keep prices at a minimum, the Aggie Sol house is prefabricated offsite as two separate halves in a factory and can be quickly transported onsite, where it’s assembled and made livable in a matter of days. The UC Davis team also sourced their materials as locally as possible to minimize shipping and construction costs. The building’s use of in-line balloon framing even uses 30% less lumber than conventional framing methods.
Since Aggie Sol was designed with farmworkers in mind, the house includes two entryways with a dedicated cleansing room where farmworkers can wash off their work-related debris before entering the home. The modular home also includes a spacious open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen; two bedrooms; a bathroom; and a mechanical room. An outdoor enclosed deck expands the footprint of the house.
Passive design techniques, such as minimal use of windows, operable exterior sunshades, and a light-colored exterior, help minimize solar heat gain. To maintain access to natural light, the design team installed solar tubes, a kind of flexible reflective tubing that funnels sunlight from the roof to the interior. A sloped butterfly roof with solar panels tops the structure to drain rainwater into a reservoir that’s used in an underfloor radiant cooling and heating system that maintains comfortable temperatures year-round with minimal energy use. A heat recovery system recycles energy from domestic grey water to preheat potable water.
The UC Davis student team designed and built Aggie Sol for the Solar Decathlon 2015. After the competition, the team will permanently locate Aggie Sol on the UC Davis campus for student housing.
Images via Aggie Sol, Mike Chino for Inhabitat