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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Archive for June, 2011

Team China Transforms Shipping Containers Into a Solar-Powered House

Friday, June 17, 2011

By Erin Pierce

Editor’s Note: This entry has been cross-posted from DOE’s Energy Blog.

In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon—which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive—we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

Design aesthetics, engineering, market appeal—these are just a few of the elements Solar Decathlon houses will be evaluated and scored on. But new this year to the competition is the Affordability Contest. Teams are encouraged to think creatively and strategically not only about the overall structure and functioning of their houses but also on how accessible they can make their designs to everyone. 

Photo of a model of Y Container.

Team China's Y Container design model

Team China, which is composed of students and faculty from Tongji University, has risen to the affordability challenge with an innovative strategy: take discarded shipping containers from the docks and refurbish them as the primary structure of a home.

“We transformed standard shipping containers in order to compensate for the cost of photovoltaic technology,” explained Hua Guodong, primary student architect. This allows the team to incorporate clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, into its design while keeping construction costs low.

Dubbed the Y Container in reference to its Y shape, the house is a combination of six recycled shipping containers that sit atop an expansive deck. In addition to providing space for outdoor seating, the multi-functional deck collects and filters rainwater for domestic needs. Energy-efficient features such as super-insulating materials and a natural ventilation tunnel contribute to the sustainable design.

Ease of transportation will play a critical role as the competition nears. After construction is complete, the students must deconstruct their house, ship it to Washington, D.C., and reconstruct it again at the start of the competition. Because of the use of standard shipping containers, the Y Container will be easy to transport, assemble, and expand—giving residents the freedom to build anywhere and in any configuration. (The Y shape is just a start.)

Photo of two students working together at a computer.

Students from Tongji University work on their Solar Decathlon project. (Courtesy of Team China)

For Team China, the Solar Decathlon has been a demanding and challenging project but not one without its rewards. Said Hua Guodong, “I have to say, although the work is hard, it’s still a very exciting and valuable experience for me and the entire team. Nothing can compare with this experience.”

Erin Pierce is an energy technology program specialist for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Belgium’s Ghent University Prepares Its E-Cube for Solar Decathlon 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

By Erik Hyrkas

Editor’s Note: This entry has been cross-posted from DOE’s Energy Blog.

In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon—which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive—we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

Ghent University’s unique two-story house could be an international star at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon this year because of the Belgium team’s innovative, ultra-efficient, passive design of the E-Cube.

Alt:  Photo of a small construction site tucked in an urban setting. In the middle is E-Cube.

Photo of Ghent University's E-Cube, under construction in Belgium (Courtesy of the Ghent University Solar Decathlon Team)

The E-Cube, named for its cube-like shape, features a clean and compact boxy exterior, complimented by a very spacious interior for a family of four (including two children) with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and living areas. Team Belgium, from Ghent University, founded the house on basic principles focusing on modularity and passive house standards, structural flexibility, and affordability, which are evident in every part of the design.

An important aspect of the E-Cube is its simple, do-it-yourself (DIY) modularity. The house is designed as a pre-engineered kit that can be easily constructed by communities without specialty workers or help from outside financial institutions. The internal structure is a basic industrial pallet racking system that keeps access and affordability in mind along with standard building codes. The E-Cube is plug-and-play. Because the entire structure is built from a kit, hooking up the solar panels and other technical components requires no specific expertise.


Computer-animated walkthrough of E-Cube

Ghent University’s house also meets passive house standards with air-tight insulation, energy-efficient windows, and the ability to heat itself without a conventional heater. This design reduces costs and the number of solar panels needed to power the house’s utilities. The house is also structurally flexible, with wall panels that are adaptable and an expandable pallet racking system. Thus, the E-Cube can be reconfigured, possibly to even add more space.

Alt: Photo of a group of people inside the E-Cube.

Team Belgium inside its E-Cube (Courtesy of Team Belgium's Facebook page)

Most of all, the E-Cube is marketed as an attractively affordable option for a solar home, from every aspect. The entire pre-engineered, DIY design makes construction a low-cost, no-brain effort. It can also be constructed at the owner’s pace in phases, making the capital investment minimal.  And the passive design and solar panels on the roof eliminate heating and cooling costs altogether once completed.

This is Ghent University’s first Solar Decathlon, and its completed design should be a competitive addition to the 2011 competition. If you’re interested in checking out its website, chose the “EN” icon in the top right corner of the screen to translate the page to English. Feel free to check out the team’s Facebook page and view more pictures on their Twitpic account.

Erik Hyrkas is a correspondence writer for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Team Canada Returns to the Solar Decathlon With First Nation Values in Mind

Friday, June 3, 2011

By April Saylor

Editor’s Note: This entry has been cross-posted from DOE’s Energy Blog.

In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon—which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive—we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

For our latest profile, we took a look at Team Canada’s design from the University of Calgary, which is making its second go at the competition after placing an impressive sixth out of 20 in Solar Decathlon 2009.

Photo of a group of people standing around a small table with a model of TRTL.

Members of Team Canada display a model of TRTL at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida. (Courtesy of Team Canada)

The team—which is made up of participants from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design, the Schulich School of Engineering, and the Haskayne School of Business—says its competitive edge emerges from an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to design.

Team Canada’s house—which is known as TRTL (a Technological Residence that respects Traditional Living)—addresses critical issues in Aboriginal communities in Alberta, Canada. The TRTL design includes specific consideration for the context of Alberta’s First Nations communities. The 1000-ft2 house is intended for a young family, with two bedrooms and a large social space for cooking and eating. The house’s solar PV panels will produce as much energy as the house consumes over a year to ease rising energy costs in remote communities. The team used building materials that are extremely durable and highly resistant to mold and fire. In addition to these efficiency considerations, the house’s exterior and interior are references to the traditions and values of Treaty 7 Nations throughout Alberta.

Photo of a model of TRTL.

A model of Team Canada's TRTL (Courtesy of Riley Brandt)

The methods and technologies the team has used to design its house are meant to improve health, safety, and durability and offer numerous economic benefits. The team also says that the house’s form and function are driven by cultural norms and aesthetic preferences.

In December, TRTL was blessed by the former Chief of the Piikani Nation, Reggie Crowshoe, at a traditional ceremony, resulting in the project’s Blackfoot name: Spo’pi, which means turtle and translates directly to “lives on stilts” (a very fitting name given the team’s design strategy).

The team says that by “integrating the cutting-edge in green building and efficiency technologies within a framework of improved housing for First Nations, the TRTL concept provides a unique and compelling look into the future of sustainable design while celebrating the diverse foundations of Canadian history and culture.” The house is a response to cultural values and traditions and was designed and built in collaboration with Aboriginal individuals and organizations.

Visit Team Canada’s website for more information about the TRTL house.

April Saylor is an online content producer and contractor to the Department of Energy Office of Public Affairs.

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