When most people design a home, they create a structure destined to have a solid foundation on the ground, but in New York City, open space for building new houses in sparse, which is exactly why Team New York took to the rooftops to create their house for the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Of the 19 homes currently competing in the biennial design-build competition on the National Mall in Washington D.C., The City College of New York’s Solar Roofpod is the only home designed specifically for city rooftops. In NYC, our rooftops are our most underutilized resource, and the Solar Roofpod takes advantage of this real estate and the bounty of sun that doesn’t reach the city streets. The prefab penthouse is a modern living space, complete with a powerful solar array, rainwater catchment, and a private garden right in the center of a big city.
In a city of tall buildings, New York’s rooftops are a hidden treasure of undeveloped real estate — approximately 1.6 billion feet to be exact! CCNY’s Solar Roofpod takes advantage of that untapped resource, creating a dwelling that takes advantage of the unused space — and plentiful sun that touches it. Solar Roofpod is the most stylish home in the sky, designed with a 9-foot NanaWall glass entrance, solar trellis that provides shade and shields the deck from rain, and a lush garden that can host flowers and organic fruits and veggies for residents to enjoy.
Perched atop a “host” building, the dwelling is powered by the multi-function solar panel trellis that caps the home. The solar photovoltaic system is coupled with micro-inverters, which ensures maximum energy output by minimizing energy losses due to shading. The system generates 11,000 kWh per year, resulting in a savings of about $2,300 in electric bills.
Aside from harnessing solar energy, the trellis also protects the house from heat gain, and provides shade and protection to the outdoor deck below. The radiant flooring is heated by solar thermal collectors, and water and power use are monitored with a built-in colored-light system, with different colors corresponding to the usage.
The gardens surrounding the Solar Roofpod collect and filter stormwater. The Roofpod recycles about 30,000 gallons of water each year, decreasing the home’s water usage by about 30 percent. Plus, the gardens retain the stormwater runoff that is a major contributor to NYC’s problem with combine sewer overflow. The gardens themselves are capable of producing 190 pounds of fresh produce every year.
The interior is centered around a wooden core that acts as shelving, walls and storage space, containing the bedroom inside. Natural light floods the home through the many windows, which are coated with Ornilux, a UV pattern invisible to humans, but deters birds from flying into them — a valid concern for a roof top dwelling. The modest 750 sq. ft. home compares with square footage of most New York apartments. To give the residents more space, the exterior walls in the kitchen and living room can open up to the outdoor deck. The modular home is easily installed and remains stable on its host roof thanks to a steel dunnage system which keeps the home grounded, while also supporting the rainwater-irrigated garden.
What distinguishes the Solar Roofpod from other 18 finalists is that it is the only design that is specifically meant for high-density urban centers such as New York. The house could very well be the modern answer for city living — creating new living space powered by clean renewable energy.