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.
“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:
- Showing some CURIOsity at The Mall
- Cash is Green
- A Napa Valley Vision on The National Mall
- An ICON-ic statement about a better future
- An Illuminating Vision for Pavilion Living: VT’s Lumenhaus
- Penn State’s Natural Fusion
- A Solar Decathlon Cheat Sheet
- Energy COOL Solar: The Solar Decathlon
- Secretary Chu Hits the Mall for Solar Decathlon … and hits the Chamber while he’s at it