Boston Architectural College students are the teachers: learning how to live sustainably in a solar house.
GettingHome Design is delighted to present the following article by Kevin Horne. He's a member of a core team comprised of forty students from Boston Architectural College and Tufts University, who have designed and built Curio House. The project is a cutting-edge demonstration of solar energy efficiency. It will be showcased in the Fall of 2009 on the Washington Mall as part of the Solar Decathlon competition.
The name Curio House
The term "Curio" is a derivation of our call to "Live Curious" - it's about questioning our current processes in ways that achieve a more sustainable lifestyle .We propose that in order to begin moving toward more sustainable systems, and sustainable communities, in the most inclusive sense of the term, we must first begin to question how we are currently living and determine what is not working. We must think critically about what aspects of our lives need to change and how to develop a desire to search for those issues. In doing so, we will realize our vision to empower and to inspire people to live sustainably.
Why the team is designing a solar house
Each member of our group of students, instructors, advisors and volunteers often has a unique and remarkable story behind why or how they joined Team Boston. However, we all have in common a belief that the era of wasteful, economically unsound and environmentally damaging fossil fuel dependency is nearing a dramatic end. In order to meet that sense of urgency, we must act quickly to change how we construct our homes, develop our communities, and fuel our societies. Solar power is a clear component of this solution, and we feel that both the competition and the two years of preparation all help to encourage others to seek out ways in which they can implement solar energy on their own homes and projects.
Motivation for the design
In keeping with our vision, our goals have been as much about bringing a positive-energy home to the Mall in October as they have been about educating the public and ourselves about how to live more sustainably. Therefore, Curio House was designed to be less about serving as a "final' solution" and more as a means by which the end user could question not only how a home is built, but also the impact of the daily activities that occur in and around that home. It has become a concrete representation of our project goals to address environmental, economic and social concerns equally.
The design concept, demonstrated by two significant formal gestures, is a clear way in which we showcase these goals. The primary form of the "L-module" provides the key to our positive-energy house, containing the most technically demanding components of a home, along with an extension of shelter to host a photovoltaic array. This L-module adheres dimensionally to standard shipping requirements, and can be developed further into a factory-built, prefabricated module that is easily shipped to any site. In doing so, we have minimized construction costs inherent to intensive technological installations. The secondary form of the deck extends through the interior space and continues by wrapping up at the north and south barriers, further surrounded by the garden wall and garden bed. This secondary space, free from the technological demands found in the core, can be adapted by the end user internally and externally in terms of space, climate and financial needs. Technologically, we've employed certain devices that both lower the overall cost of a positive-energy home for the Boston climate and allow end users more realistic methods to "grow" their photovoltaic array over time. Our decision to use more affordable flat-plate collectors in lieu of evacuated solar thermal tubes provides a more financially accessible solution to the average user. In keeping with our aim to use less expensive solutions whenever possible, we have installed exterior thermal shades on our southern facade and polycarbonate panels on the northern facade. Similarly, by using micro-inverters, we are hoping to educate the public that they can add more PV panels over time and not require the up-front costs for a full array that are often financially prohibitive.
Renderings by Damian Liddiard, Stephen Messinger, and Alla Raafat.
Photography by Erin Baldassari and Allison Fisk
Additional photos: http://www.picasaweb.com/bossdteam