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A corner of The National Mall is s•ky blue

October 10th, 2009 · 4 Comments

The University of Kentucky has brought its own color to a plot on The National Mall. . Their entry into the Solar Decathlon, as one of 20 energy efficient solar powered homes,, is called “s•ky blue” with the motto “live.light”.

As with all the houses, s•ky blue almost certainly exceeds the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes Platinum standards—the highest level achievable under the LEED rating system. s•ky blue achieves this efficiency combining technology with Kentucky architecture.

Along many other Decathlon entries, s•ky blue incorporates weather monitoring. The AWARE computer monitoring system (the Automated Weather Adaptive Response Energy ) also receives zip code-specific, short-term (24- to 72-hour) weather forecasts at 3-hour intervals. It then uses an energy model to evaluate the data and calculate the best scenarios for operating building systems in response, and chooses settings and recommendations for the house’s components. For example, with cold, overcast weather predicted, it might use order additional water pumped through the solar thermal system to build up as much hot water as the tank can mange. Occupants can, themselves, monitor the home’s performance and override the system — or choose to modify their own behavior in face of the house’s feedback.

One of the realities of the Solar Decathlon: these are small homes. As commented by Decathlon judge Sarah Susanka, The Not So Big House,

“I don’t think many people have had the opportunity to tour well-designed smaller structures. That’s a real revelation to a lot of people.”

The Univ of Kentucky team tackled the challenge in part through the Shaker tradition. (Truth in advertising, I find Shaker furniture highly appealing, with several pieces in my home.)  S•ky blue’s spaces thus can be more than meets the eye.

To maximize space in the general portion of the house, the s.ky blue team has designed and fabricated numerous areas and spaces unforeseen to the eye. Built-ins and bump-outs act as wardrobe and storage compartments. For example, a pocket-table slides into the kitchen wall making it possible for a multifunctional dining and entertainment area. The Shaker inspired chairs that hang flat on the wall, concealed door slides and foldout office table compliment the spatial goals desired throughout the house.

Rainwater collection is standard fare with Decathletes.  S•ky blue’s system might be unique, as it is connected to an automated watering system.

The stored rainwater is used to water the plants using a highly efficient water usage system. Sensors placed inside the plant pots determine if the plant needs water. If water is needed the system provides a small amount of water to the plant. The system then waits for a few minutes and checks to see of the plant still needs water and if so, the plant receives another pulse of water. This continues until the watering needs of the plant are met.

Note: s•ky blue= Solar Kentucky Blue (blue being the University’s color)

Additional posts on the 2009 Solar Decathlon:

Tags: solar · solar decathlon

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 A quick cheat sheet to Solar Decathlon stars // Oct 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    [...] University of Kentucky: Right off, have to comment that the S.ky Blue house has a logo ready for mass marketing (in other words, check it out on the team’s web site). The team has incorporated an intelligent control system, pulling down weather data and forecasts to provide optimal controlling of the building system. The system manages the house’s heating and cooling, the solar thermal system, and a series of pumps connected to thermal storage tanks to make heating, cooling, and ventilation as efficient as possible. Occupants can view their energy consumption and change their behavior or their system settings to meet changing conditions. S.ky Blue has both tracking and fixed pv.  By the way, as with Iowa (and other entrants), S*KY Blue is also ADA copmliant.  See A Corner of the Nation Mall is S*KY Blue. [...]

  • 2 A CHIP shot at a better future? // Sep 16, 2011 at 9:50 am

    [...] A corner of The National Mall is s•ky blue [...]

  • 3 Bright Rays of Sunshine Hit DC: A preview of The Solar Decathlon // Sep 20, 2011 at 9:17 am

    [...] A corner of The National Mall is s•ky blue [...]

  • 4 A Solyndra Showcase in Washington, DC // Sep 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    [...] A corner of The National Mall is s•ky blue [...]

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