The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon rules may not allow a lot of square footage, but the Team Alberta entry packs a whole lot of living—and working and playing—area into that limited space. The Team Alberta house includes a vaulted-ceiling living room and kitchen area, a stone-clad core area for the bathroom and mechanical systems, a bedroom and home office space, a rooftop deck, a keyway dividing the bedroom/home office from the more public areas of the house, and even a yoga space.
Team Alberta includes students from four schools: SAIT Polytechnic (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology), Mount Royal College, the Alberta College of Art + Design, and the University of Calgary. Team members point proudly—and gladly—to the effort being 100% student led, with faculty being very hands-off.
They also say that the Solar Decathlon experience has been their life for the past year or so, and most expect to make energy-efficient building part of their careers. Team member Matt Beck says the tangible house is a "great real-world change from studio classes where you put your project on a poster board and then, once the class is over, it's gone."
The Team Alberta house is designed in the rustic image of Western Canada on the outside, with "post and beam timber frame" construction, and high-tech on the inside, with nearly all systems—heating, cooling, lighting, and even entertainment—operated by a programmable logic controller. Team member Mike Gestwick says the system, which is designed to be flexible and responsive, "allows us incredible control."
The home is separated by a keyway into public and private areas and seems to work an amazing amount of space for various activities into each.
The central control is the most notable technology of the Team Alberta house, but other systems include: