The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 team from HU University of Applied Science Utrecht, Netherlands, has developed the design of their modular, eco-friendly home, called Selficient,
Solar Decathlon 2017-Team Netherlands’ Selficient: HU University of Applied Science Utrecht (credit: U.S. Department of Energy, presented at www.WindermereSun.com)
around the concept of a fairly well known toy: LEGO. Using the wall panels as “blocks,” homeowners can tailor a house to fit their needs. Panels can be added to expand the house or removed to scale it down. On top of the modular house design, the Netherlands team tapped into the burgeoning “Internet of Things” industry by connecting heat, water, and other home systems to the owner’s smartphone. Therefore the homeowner can easily monitor and regulate the settings from anywhere.
The Netherlands team is inspired by the circular economy and a strong belief that people of all financial means should be able to live in a sustainable home. Our current linear approach uses resources to make products that are disposed of as waste and not recycled. In contrast, a circular economy seeks to emulate the cycles of the natural world, where energy comes from the sun and wastes are recycled into new resources. This approach requires a non-compostable product to be designed so that the materials used to make it can be reused at the end of its useful life. Selficient, with its panelized structure that can be easily reconfigured, and its reliance on renewable energy, demonstrates how a home can be endlessly recyclable while adapting to occupants’ needs at every stage in their lives. Some of the features and technologies may be found in this house, below:
Movable, modular walls allow for customization, and the ability to expand the size of the house or make it smaller.
A battery and inverter system act as the smart battery for the house, storing energy produced from the solar panels, protecting the house from outages, and returning power to the grid when there is excess.
A smart home automation system controls many of the home’s systems, including heating and cooling, ventilation, water heating, and energy storage.
Two-dimensional modular construction, consisting of standardized wall, floor, and roof elements are connected to a frame with releasable connections.
Standard measurements create a grid to allow for easy home customization.
Smart panels can be reused multiple times and manufactured affordably.
A greenhouse regulates interior temperatures.
Selficient is designed for “Doorstromers,” or those in a transitional stage of life. This demographic includes individuals or couples who are already living in their own first apartment or house but are considering starting families. Since 2008, demand for houses by Doorstromers has steadily increased, and by 2015 more than 60% of houses were sold to this market.
Netherland’s research shows that the Doorstromers want to contribute to the European Union 2030 and 2050 climate goals and become part of the energy transition. Unfortunately, most of the houses currently offered on the Dutch housing market are not affordable, so Doorstromers often can’t afford to make additional investments to improve energy efficiency. That’s where Selficient comes in, providing a cost-effective housing solution with already incorporated sustainability and renewable energy-efficiency features. The healthy interior living environment of Selficient also resonates with the Doorstromers, who want to provide safe and healthy surroundings for their children. Elderly people looking to downsize represent another potential market for these homes. As their needs for space go down, they can reduce the size of their existing Selficient home and sell Selficient panels to other homeowners looking to add on to theirs.
The Netherlands team plans to build revenue by offering a high-class, technologically innovative solar house to Selficient’s early adopters. The profit generated from the sale of these modular homes will be reinvested in research and development to decrease production costs and offer different, more affordable versions of the house.
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 Swiss Team’s project has the lofty goal of empowering local communities to become change agents. NeighborHub of Swiss Living Challenge demonstrates sustainable technologies such as renewable energy and urban and hydroponic gardening, but it also serves as a collaborative space where a community can discuss issues of energy and sustainability and participate in activities, from cooking and sharing meals to repairing bicycles.
Solar Decathlon 2017-The NeighborHub-Team Swiss-Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, University of Fribourg (credit: U.S. Department of Energy, presented at www.WindermereSun.com)
NeighborHub is more than a house. The Swiss Team’s goal is to create a shared space that helps to build and sustain the community around it. By demonstrating innovative solutions and providing a space to collaborate, NeighborHub has the potential to support Switzerland’s urban and energy transition by emphasizing seven themes: renewable energy, water management, waste management, mobility, food, material choices, and biodiversity. NeighborHub is designed with multifunctional spaces that can change to meet the needs of the community—from a dining space for a community meal to a conference room for educational workshops to a bike-repair shop or local market. This flexibility ensures that, over time, the house will meet the needs of the greatest number of occupants while using the least amount of land and facilitating strong connections within the neighborhood. NeighborHub’s flexibility is illustrated in elements such as the façades, which support solar panels, plants, aquaponics, and a solar dryer. Inside, easily movable furniture allows spaces to be reconfigured to accommodate different groups.
Some features and technologies that may be found at this house design, below:
Laminated veneer lumber is used for the house and the furniture within the house. This structural product provides significant dimensional flexibility in the design and allows small trees to be converted into larger planks.
A productive building envelope surface includes walls that produce energy from active solar electric PV panels and that collect the heat from the sun for water and space heating using passive solar strategies. The roof is also a productive surface that is used to collect water and grow food.
In addition to a photovoltaic (solar electric) system, the team is also using dye-sensitized “Gratzel” solar cells to generate electricity and team-built solar thermal panels for hot water and space heating.
The green roof with vegetation on every surface of the roof skin includes plants chosen to attract bees.
There are two vertical greenhouses, one with an aquaponic system for breeding fish.
A zero-water “dry” toilet uses worms to treat and recycle waste.
More than just a house, NeighborHub is intended as a collaborative space for a community to discuss issues of energy and sustainability, and to provide a space for community activities such as cooking meals and hosting workshops.
The Swiss Team believes that NeighborHub provides the ultimate solution to critical challenges of climate change and resource depletion—issues the Swiss people care about deeply. Rather than being a traditional home, NeighborHub is intended to be a community space in a suburban neighborhood. The Swiss Team is targeting Switzerland’s “Energy Cities”—cities that are leading the energy transition by promoting renewable energy, eco-friendly transportation, and the responsible use of resources—for NeighborHub. More specifically, the Swiss Team has chosen the urban center of Fribourg, which is one of Switzerland’s Energy Cities, to demonstrate NeighborHub’s viability. The team engaged stakeholders from private industry, city government, and an energy supplier as partners. The hope is that the project will attract early adopters, who will take advantage of NeighborHub’s space to demonstrate various sustainability strategies. Those who may be initially indifferent to the project will witness its benefits and be inspired to participate.
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