Posting in Design
Inside it's pretty small but the judges ranked it first in several areas, including home entertainment. This contest featured trials like a dinner party, hosting a movie night, and keeping the PC and TV running during specific times.
Most of the entries were from U.S. universities and the winner, at right, was the home from the University of Illinois. (Go Illini!)
The Gable Home (named for its gabled design, not the movie actor, who was from Ohio anyway) is a passive solar house, so many of its key features are hidden in the walls. The wood is laminated bamboo, with reclaimed barn board siding.
The energy capture systems are located in the "loft" (aka the attic), where the solar water heater is located. There is a solar panel array on the south side of the structure that can generate a peak power of 9,000 watts, angled at 45 degrees.
Inside it's pretty small -- just a bedroom, bath, kitchen/dining area and living room -- but the judges ranked it first in several areas, including home entertainment. This contest featured trials like a dinner party, hosting a movie night, and keeping the PC and TV running during specific times.
Over 200 people worked on the Illinois project. The home had to be disassembled, assembled within a designated period on-site, and still needs to be taken apart again next week for delivery to a lot near the campus, where someone will actually live in it.
If you don't like the Illinois house there are 19 others, on the Mall, through Sunday. A real street of dreams. I wonder if it has a fantasy room, where the contractor comes in to make repairs after the closing?
Oct 15, 2009
I guess I am none of the above, though I have made many more mistakes than anyone who fits that category. As a guy who has created a damn sure 100% solar dwelling, I often go to research, and too frequently stumble on this childish denier stuff like the above. Little ones, the technology is now. As my old (now) art professor said, " artists are not ahead of time, they are with it. Everyone else is behind"
Yes, they all are a fantasy of sorts. Just don't run the stove, microwave, PC and TV all the same day or you'll drain the batteries so much that your guest will have to eat by candle light. Instead space those activities out throughout the week to save power. Oh, yeah and don't forget, if you like living in Ohio or farther east you will have to wash your clothes by hand, cook over a wood fired stove and again use candle light. Other than that, off the top of my head, you can enjoy a solar powered house. NO PROBLEM!
1) Building a much more efficient house, and 2) Powering housing units with Solar energy. Unfortunately, the article ends up mixing these issues into one attempt to make a point in order to legitimize solar powered housing. This is done by necessity, I suppose, because the homes in the research project were purposefully engineered to be ultra-energy efficient. However I would like to see a fair/balanced study on the cost feasibility of solar-powered housing ala-cart. Yes you can power an ultra-efficient house using solar, but it would likely be far cheaper to power the house using fossil, if you subtract out the cost of solar panels. Taking into account the cost per month to power the house using fossil, and the cost of the solar panels, how many years before the solar panels pay for themselves? Very likely the same number of years as a standard house today: 20- 30 years!
A bigger structure of the same shape has less surface area per unit of volume, thus is easier to insulate. The small solar house is really more of a challenge, not easier. As for the Arizona desert brought up in the first comment - that's where solar energy is most abundant, the easiest place to operate an all-solar house. The fact that it's hot outside just means you need lots of insulation.
Let's see these concepts applied to a "true life" situation and a reality-based structure, not a "crackerbox" fit for only one or two people.
To: dave_helmut The original article was specifically dealing with a specially built house, so I replied with that assumption. At no point in your earlier message did you mention the parameter of "having to retrofit an existing design with solar", only in your response now did you mention this restriction in the comparison. That said, one can (at somewhat greater expense) retro-fit an existing tract home to improve its energy efficiency significantly. This alone would provide substantial savings, as I think you are alluding to. If one then considers such add-ons as solar and wind power to further reduce reliance on fossil fuel power, as well as eliminating the substantial energy transportation costs, there is much more to be saved. Your example is interesting - I would expect a house built and "applianced" conventionally to require so much electricity that an estimate for solar power could well be in excess of $50,000 in addition to the house. That said, improving the initial house up to a certain point would provide better bang for the buck than buying bigger solar panels - perhaps a combined "spend" of $40,000 to achieve the same results. On the other hand, a house built to run successfully on solar power would deliver significant benefits when running on the grid (using about one third the electricity). As for electric car sacrifices - the only two I see in practice are initial cost and horsepower. Safety and comfort are bogus arguments as far as I have experienced. I do not see the Volt, the EMev or otehr state of the art e-cars as any less comfortable or safe (and perhaps more comfortable and safer than many cars). Your own comparison of car and house technologies is unfortunately itself an apples and oranges comparison. Car technology has advanced hugely over the last 20 years, with todays cars absolutely pushing the boundaries for efficiency for internal combustion engines, with the vehicles themselves being ever lighter yet stronger and safer. The best electric platform is less than 30% lighter than its gas-engined counterpart. I the realm of houses, there is an enormous gulf to bridge. In Germany, engineers are creating houses that require 0 active heating, that cost little more than an average conventional house. The U.K. which gets mild winters has mandated triple glazing in new construction, and is very active in such areas as passive solar heating, yet Canada where we have several weeks each year of -20 c temperatures still only requires double glazing. My point is that homes can still EASILY be doubled in efficiency at relatively low cost.
dimonic, DanaBlankenhorn, Byterat: Please take special note of my post: "It will cost you many times the cost of the equivalent standard-energy-consuming house". I am talking about building a house to use fossil, and the same exact house to use solar. The cost for the solar version will make a $200,000 house $300,000 or more. Admittedly I have no hard facts to back this up - more of an educated observation, ergo - I am willing to be proven wrong. However you all say about the same thing: that when designing a solar house, you have to do this or that to make it affordable and energy efficient. Well heck you can do all those things AND use fossil to power the house. I hope now you realize you are comparing apples to oranges. I hear the same thing all the time when electric vehicles are labeled as more "fuel" efficient; the electric cars sacrifice safety/comfort/horsepower to achieve such efficiencies. All these sacrifices can be made for cars using ANY fuel - including diesel. Thanks for reading, Dave
Please forgive me, but a user of the NoScript add-on to the Firefox web browser has posted at the Support Forum that he was unable to log in to this site or to post messages, and is blaming NoScript for that. I am demonstrating to him that he is incorrect and that this site is not incompatible with NoScript if the proper permissions are given. If you could do me the courtesy of leaving this message in place so that the user could see it, I would be very grateful. Thank you very much, Tom T. NoScript Support Team
To be honest, the question has only been raised in the last couple of centuries. Until then it was pretty well a given fact. How long will it be before we 'discover' that long term storage of solar energy only needs a low tech tree planting program; and how long before we find a way to accomplish intercontinental air travel using only a few pounds of goose fat?
There are numerous other people who live in affordable solar powered homes, participate in your nearest SOLAR Homes Tour. Although these homes are usually custom built, the owners have made a lot of design decisions that a standard builder would not make, like: house location and orientation, insulation, building design and room layout, window sizing, building materials and appliances. Every aspect of the building is looked at with the environment and occupants in mind. With inteligent decisions you can live with a much lower energy consumption level than you have right now without sacrificing your comfort and convience levels. Cookie cutter homes and sub-divisions can't make all of the appropriate decisions that will minimize your energy consumption. The biggest problem with todays society is our unshakable belief that we CAN NOT survive in a sustainable way. Why do we need huge McMansions to house a couple of people? Why do we need huge vehicles that can go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds or go 200mph? Why do we need to have our food transported thousands of miles to a processing plant and then transported back for consumption? It all comes down to convienence and instant gratification.
One of the many tests placed on these homes involved their affordability. The Illini home, for instance, has an interesting design I linked to. The structure is based on a series of arches, made of laminated bamboo, both cheap and light. The arches hold the structure, in the same way conventional structures are framed-up. Laminated bamboo is something I had never heard of before. But it's highly renewable, and can be made reasonably strong.
I have some friends who already live off the grid in Ontario (Canada). With substantial insulation (which at time of build is not very expensive) and innovative construction techniques, the actual build cost is certainly less than double, and usually about 30% more than a traditional frame house - depending on the levels of seamless living desired. I am a big fan of government mandated sell-back programs, where instead of me maintaining batteries, and having no electricity when it is dark etc, I sell electricity to the grid when I have a surplus, and buy it when I have a deficit. That way, I can save wherever possible, but still not sacrifice lifestyle if I do not wish to.
It will cost you many times the cost of the equivalent standard-energy- consuming house. Things are worse for dwellings in the more northerly regions, where the sun's energy is weak most of the year...
They need to try these concept houses in more extreme climates. I live in Arizona where we get 100+ temps for more than 1/3 of the year. Lets see the solar powered AC keep up just to keep the house around 80 (livable).