The Solar Decathlon is an international competition awarding participants who operate the world’s best solar home with a grand prize. Launched in 2002, the student and university challenge for a green economy, renewable energy, and clean, safe, and healthy environments has been organized in the US, Europe, and China. From 14 to 29 November 2018, the Solar Decathlon takes place at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, UAE, for the first time. Organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), the competition includes 28 universities and 15 teams from 11 different countries and aims to achieve high-performance prototypes of solar homes that are functional in the extreme climatic conditions of the Middle East and can be produced in high-volume in similar communities in the world. Heat, dust, and high humidity pose difficult and thought-provoking conditions for the teams who assembled solar-energy powered houses at the park ground in Dubai. Virginia Tech is one of seven teams out of the 15 who passed all inspections for their project of the FutureHAUS. The team and their project are the only one from the US participating in this year’s competition. The house has been in development since 2016 and the interdisciplinary faculty-student team has been hard at work until the last minute. As a sponsor and consultant, the Kohler team offered a helping hand with design and technology capabilities for the kitchen and bathroom of the modular, pre-finished construction. The FutureHAUS is the home of the future and an alternative to conventional construction. Cartridges of kitchen, bathrooms, audio/visual walls, mechanical rooms, and cabinets as pre-fabricated and assembled in the factory as plug-and-play. They are pre-plumbed and pre-wired. Once they arrived on site, the construction and installation were an efficient link up. Our team consulted on the 3D-printed adjustable sinks that integrate KOHLER Response®Technology which is the same system used in the Sensate faucets. The competition team also used DTV showering systems and smart features as well as bathroom and kitchen fixtures. ‘We saw this project as a way to catalyze our thinking about the power of space and holistic integration of control technology,’ John Teubert, director of Advanced Materials and Process Development commented about FutureHAUS. In addition to the adjustable sink, the house adapts to its inhabitants with moveable walls to better utilize space, adjustable toilets, cabinets that move up and down to accommodate different users, and more. Above all, all prototypes in the competition use solar as the only energy source, are energy efficient and were completely assembled on the expo area within the set deadline. A jury of experts is subjecting each project to different tests and challenges during the show period to determine winners in ten different categories. FutureHAUS Dubai, according to Joseph Wheeler, one of the team’s lead faculty members, professor of architecture, and co-director of the Center for Design Research, is ‘a model of interlinked infrastructure, responsive design, prefabrication, and integrated technologies.’ It was inspired by the best production practices of the automotive and airplane industry and is going above and beyond the competition’s requirements. With its solar panel canopy, it is energy positive – feeding back to the energy grid – and shields homeowners from the strong sunlight. Net-zero water usage is achieved through two recycle systems. Laundry water travels through a gravel tank before entering two separate filters of which one is UV, before being used for a new laundry cycle. A similar process is used for shower water. This ensures that 90% of the water used in the house is being recycled and reused. The innovative prototype is equipped with sensing capabilities throughout to control daily activities. It is responsive to the needs of the residents. The Solar Decathlon Dubai challenges the young participants to think holistically about the cultural, climatic, and social contexts of construction. Their solutions will help create smart, sustainable, and future housing in various communities in the world. The teams’ aspirations and visions go hand in hand with Dubai’s goal to become the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050. If you have a chance to be in Dubai or are still here after the Dubai Design Week, do not miss to visit FutureHAUS at the Solar Decathlon until 29 November.
Check out some of our other solar projects: China
Source: some photos are courtesy of Solar Decathlon FB page, FutureHAUS, and VT.