The 2011 Solar Decathlon closed in Washington DC with Team Maryland's win, but we were seriously impressed with the incredible effort that all of this year's student teams put into developing innovative sun-powered homes that operate completely off-grid. Another of our favorite projects, Team Florida's FLeX House was designed for a small family in hot and humid Florida with a hybrid envelope that allows the house to be completely open during cooler months and closed up tight against the hot days.
The FLeX House is a carefully considered design for hot, humid climates that creates a comfortable, efficient interior environment through the use of photovoltaics, passive design, and shading techniques. Oriented to the south of its site, the 1 bedroom home features a shaded patio to the north for resident and visitors to enjoy. Cypress wood louvers sit above the structure, casting shade over the roof and the walls to reduce heat gain and encourage natural ventilation.
A large window/door on the north end completely slides open to extend the living space onto the back deck and make use of Florida’s moderate temperatures and natural ventilation whenever possible. When it’s too hot, the windows and doors are closed up tight and a highly efficient heat pump system takes over to provide cooling. Dehumidification is also incredibly important in Florida, so a liquid desiccant duct system helps remove moisture from incoming air and improves the efficiency of the cooling system. A solar hot water system provides domestic hot water, while a 5 kW photovoltaic system provides power for the home.
The FLeX House was transported via a single truck and features an open floor plan design. The home’s compact and efficient use of space and extension to outdoor living space make it seem larger than it is. The exterior is landscaped with drought-tolerant, low-maintenance native species, many of which work to provide more shade for the home. After the competition, the FleX House is slated to return to the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, where it will become a solar energy learning center for the Tampa Bay area. Team Florida is made up of a group of students from the University of South Florida, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida.
Images by Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat