Students from the School of Architecture and the College of Engineering have worked together closely over the last two years to create our design for this year’s Solar Decathlon. We have also enlisted students from many other departments on campus to build a truly multi-disciplinary project team.
The original concept for the house was proposed by Luming Li as part of a studio design competition. From the thirteen excellent designs proposed, a jury of faculty members and local professionals narrowed the entries down to four. Students on the project team then selected Luming’s design as being the most visionary and having the most potential for future development. Luming's design provided the framework for the design process that would continue for another year. The final design of the house is the product of a collaborative design team who gave the house the character and form that it has today.
The design addresses not only solar power, but wider concerns of sustainability. The roof of the home is curved, acting as a metaphor for the path of the sun across the sky. This curvature also fixes the solar panels at a range of angles, similar to the manner in which the sun’s altitude varies over the course of the year. The other defining aspect of the house’s design is that it is elevated above the ground plane, anchored to the earth, yet touching it lightly. Raising the house allows us to put the water storage tanks and batteries needed during the competition under the living space in the center of the house. This leaves more room for living space in a home that is limited by contest rules to 800 square feet of area. It also allows the natural landscape to flow under the house, reducing its footprint (literally and figuratively) on the land. Finally, the elevation of the house will provide its occupants with a better vantage point from which to appreciate the natural world around them.
The Maryland Solar House will be a showcase of modern sustainable lifestyles, a demonstration that living ‘green’ does not require compromises in comfort or style. The building’s exterior form is dramatic and exciting; its interior finishes and furnishings are rich and comfortable. All materials called for in the design are healthy for the occupants, and for the planet’s ecosystem. The majority of the construction features renewable materials including FSC-certified* lumber, and bamboo flooring. Other components of the house are based on recycled (recycleable) materials such as the lightweight gypsum floor slab, insulation, glass tile, exterior ramps and decking. We have worked diligently to include only non-toxic materials such as PVC-free plumbing and low-VOC paints and adhesives.
The home will also feature many components and systems that make it a model of energy and water efficiency. Energy-efficient triple-pane windows and doors are used throughout. The windows will be operable to allow for natural ventilation and will be equipped with exterior shading devices. The appliances have been chosen based on their superior performance and energy and water saving characteristics. The heating system for the house is a radiant in-floor system that provides optimum comfort while conserving energy. The water will be heated by a solar hot-water system during sunny days, and by an electric water heater when overcast. And of course, the electricity for that heater, as well as all the other needs of the house, will be generated by photovoltaic panels on the roof and stored in batteries under the house.
As with all aspects of the project team’s operation, the architectural vision of the Maryland Solar House has been defined entirely by the students, with only general guidance provided by the faculty advisors. In design, budgeting, procurement and construction, the Maryland team is managed by the students.
We believe that the 2005 Maryland Solar House is a beautiful example of how human innovation can provide for the residents’ spiritual and physical comfort, without adversely affecting the planet’s health. The sustainable practices, materials and technologies demonstrated in this home are essential to making the world our grandchildren will inherit a healthy, comfortable, and joyous place. Through our actions and intentions, we hope to actually make the world a better place for them to live in.
Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Website