Each of the Solar Decathlon’s 20 teams developed their own philosophy, developed within their own regional requirements and styles, and developed a sustainable home from that. Some teams aimed for the upscale market, creating visions for the Hampton beach goer or the empty nesters sipping wine in Napa Valley. While those on the high might find their home appealing, the Puerto Rican team focused their efforts toward developing something
not just with appeal, but also affordability.
The Caribbean Affordable Solar House (CASH), with the slogan “CASH is green”, combines innovative approaches, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and attractive (livable) design with affordability.
All teams face challenges of designing (architecturally and energy wise) for their home and for the National Mall in October. And, they face the challenges of transport: making the home system mobile and reducing the footprint of that move as much as possible. Team Puerto Rico addressed that moving challenge by framing their house with steel with structural insulated panels (SIPs) for walling. This provides great assurance for the move (along with protection against hurricanes), ease of construction, and high R (insulation) values. And, the basic component design (the modularity) worked for the L-shape on the Mall and would work for any of the alternative structures that they suggest.
CASH has an element that might be unique among the teams, absolutely sensible for the home territory (the Caribbean), but potentially a risk in the overall competition. The 450 square foot main module, as I understand it, is within the conditioned (heating/cooling) envelope. The multi-purpose “L” module (open space for use, laundry rooms, etc), on the other hand, isn’t. With good passive solar design and taking advantage of air flows (with CASH have massive sliding screens enabling air flow, cutting solar radiation, while protecting from insects), it is easy to see having only part of the home with the conditioned space. While appropriate for Puerto Rico, it will be interesting to see whether this hurts scoring in DC.
As with several other homes, CASH is designed with radiant piping in the ceiling (again, only in that main module). CASH’s system is designed to operate only slightly cooler than ambient temperature to minimize (”avoid”) condensation.
There are ten different arenas of competition, from architecture to Net Metering (sending power back to the grid). One of the ten is Communications, worth 75 points, which is an arena where the CASH team could do quite well yet, on the other hand, face a real handicap. When it comes to branding, in a world where ‘cash is king’, “CASH is green” is hard to argue against. Their website is attractive, clear, easy to navigate while not overwhelming with gimmicks that undermine usability. (Although, to be honest, not as robust as it should be.) Their Mall handout for visitors is attractive, informative, easy to navigate. (Though, sadly, that handout has much information that is not available on the website — an example of inadequate material on the site.) Up to actually entering the house, they might not have been top of the ‘communications’ chart (where Team Pueto Rico was in 2005, when they came in 2d place), but certainly competitive. When touring, however, simple questions weren’t understood (”do you have handouts for media?”) and, with two of the team members dealing with visitors, it felt as if speaking Spanish was the path to having a reasonable discussion. Sigh … hopefully my experience was the exception rather than rule.
Now, while Team Puerto Rico aims for “Affordability”, that affordability comes with elegance and beauty that has appeal across the economic spectrum
The Puerto Rican team merits a special note as only one of two teams (no, reader, at this time I do not know the other …) to have been part of all four Solar Decathlons.
Additional posts on the 2009 Solar Decathlon:
- 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