In what can be only be considered a major disappointment, the University of Hawai'i has announced their withdrawal from the upcoming Solar Decathlon competition. Due to timing and financial challenges the team decided to withdraw from the 2011 competition, but wholeheartedly plans to try again in 2013. Despite dropping out, the team has made significant headway into the fields of sustainable architecture, engineering and design as they worked on their plans for their striking home - Hale Pilihonua. With an armored shell of solar panels, aerogel high performance insulation, shading louvers, and interactive LED lighting, Team Hawai'i's solar home surely would have made for a daring competitor.
Hale Pilihonua, which translates to the “home that is one with the land,” was designed using a holistic approach that functions in harmony with naturally available resources. The tubular home is covered in a shell, or semi-monocoque structure made of fiber-reinforced polymer, also commonly used in eco-friendly surfboards. This rot and pest resistant shell is insulated with translucent and high performance aerogel, which allows natural lighting to glow through the facade into the interior. Mounted on the exterior are controllable shading louvers, solar photovoltaics and a solar hot water heating system.
Integrated environmental control systems include phase-change material for thermal storage, intelligent occupancy sensing, energy-conserving lighting controls, and home integration software. The electrical engineering students developed programs and demos for interactive LED lighting that utilize Microsoft Kinect infrared technology to allow the walls to light only areas of the home where occupants reside. Landscaping is intended to supplement the family’s food supply and makes use of an outdoor aquaponics system.
Team Hawai’i’s withdrawal on June 1st shows how challenging designing a net zero home can be. Even though we write every day about amazing green homes, there is a ton of work, engineering, and thoughtful design that goes into these homes, not to mention a considerable amount of funding. Competing in the Solar Decathlon is an expensive endeavor and many homes cost close to the million dollar mark if not more. Even with donations, outside funding and sponsors, it can be a challenge to find enough money to build the home and send the team to DC for the competition. As the Solar Decathlon gains more attention and becomes even more competitive, we hope spending can be reeled in to make it more accessible. Certainly it is must be a great disappointment to the students who have already worked so hard on this project, but hopefully will have the chance to work on it again in 2013.