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Title: About the Solar Decathlon


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Photos of 2007 solar decathlon winning entry from
Technische Universitat Darmstadt in Germany.
About the Solar Decathlon The Solar Decathlon is
a competition in which 20 teams of college and
university students compete to design, build, and
operate the most attractive, effective, and
energy-efficient, solar-powered house. The Solar
Decathlon is also an event to which the public is
invited to observe the powerful combination of
solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in
home design. Teams of college students design a
solar house, knowing from the outset that it must
be powered entirely by the sun. In a quest to
stretch every last watt of electricity that's
generated by the solar panels on their roofs, the
students absorb the lesson that energy is a
precious commodity. They strive to innovate,
using high-tech materials and design elements in
ingenious ways. Along the way, the students
learn how to raise funds and communicate about
team activities. They collect supplies and talk
to contractors. They build their solar houses,
learning as they go. The 20 teams transport
their solar houses to the competition site on the
National Mall and virtually rebuild them in the
solar village. Teams assemble their houses, and
then the active phase of the Solar Decathlon
begins with an opening ceremony for students,
media, and invited guests. The teams compete in
contests, and even though this part of the Solar
Decathlon gets the most attention, the students
really win the competition through the many
months of fund raising, planning, designing,
analyzing, redesigning, and finally building and
improving their homes. The public is invited to
tour the solar homes and event exhibits during
much of the competition.




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UC Boulder identifies the above condition as the
urban desert.
Architectural Concept The Solar Decathlon
competition challenges each team to design,
build, and operate their small, solar-powered
home on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Yet, the event is not really about college kids
building houses on the Mall. Rather, the Solar
Decathlon seeks to provide real-world training
for the next generation of engineers and
architects, to promote the development of
innovative solutions for sustainable building
design, to transfer these solutions to a diverse
building industry, and to educate the public
about the energy solutions available in today's
market. However, some of the constraints of the
Solar Decathlon competition pose a challenge for
meeting these underlying objectives.
Specifically, competition rules and practical
logistics dictate that these homes are small,
lightweight, easy to transport, all-electric,
off-grid, and completely covered with solar
energy systems. Few of these competition
artifacts dominate the real world. While
competition rules limit the floor area to about
700 ft2 (70 m2), very few of us live in such
small houses - the average new home in the US has
a floor area of about 2100 ft2. While it might
be easier to design, build, and transport a 700
ft2 home for the competition, how do you make the
design relevant to students, homeowners, the
building industry, and the public? How do you
rationalize a 7 kW photovoltaic system on a 700
ft2 home? How much bigger would the system have
to be if it were in my house? How do you explain
a construction cost of over 300 per square foot?
How do you design appropriate thermal mass for
effective passive solar heating while minimizing
transportation weight? How do you develop
solutions for the two million new housing units
built every year by focusing on mobile homes?




from http//solar.colorado.edu
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Three dimensional model and constructed entry on
the national mall in Washington, D.C.
Architectural Concept The University of Colorado
design seeks to address these questions to
provide real-world solutions for the real energy
challenges we all face while honoring the
constraints of the Solar Decathlon competition.
Although the competition limits each teams home
size to about 700 ft2, the Colorado team took a
bold approach by building a 2100 ft2 full-size
home and delivering a smaller competition module
to Washington, D.C. The competition module or
more simply the module represented the full
house in the Solar Decathlon events. The module
conforms to the constraints of the competition
and included only the kitchen, part of the living
room, guest bedroom, bathroom, and an integrated
hallway and mechanical room. The full-size house
or more simply the house has 2100 ft2 of
floor area, and includes three bedrooms, three
bathrooms, a larger living room and a small
family/office area. All building systems,
including mechanical, electrical, and solar
energy systems, are designed and sized for the
house, rather than the module. All heating,
cooling, and indoor air quality control systems
were sized for the full house, yet allowed
modularity for the competition module. The PV
system used for the competition provided the full
house with an appropriately-sized array to make
it a net zero energy home.



from
http//solar.colorado.edu
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Drawings of first floor plan with programmatic
CORE highlighted on right.
CORE Concept The CORE concept is based on a
prefabricated and customizable central core that
includes kitchen, bath and mechanical equipment.
In fact, there is no piping, ductwork, plumbing,
or other mechanical equipment outside the core.
The CORE concept uses the shipping container
spine to modulate the spatial experience of the
home. The containers central position allows
them to function as transition zones between the
public and private areas of the home. The CORE
concept leverages the efficiencies of
factory-built, modular construction for those
parts of a dwelling that best lend themselves to
industrial prefabrication and the economies of
scale. Yet, it allows a limitless number of user
options in customizing the core components and
encourages individual, sustainable, home plans
and construction techniques outside the core. In
addition, the sophisticated mechanical,
electrical, and plumbing systems are fully
fabricated, installed, and calibrated in a
factory environment, are protected during
transport by the container, and require no
additional on-site construction or
adjustment. The CORE strategy encourages freedom
of aesthetics, construction methods, and material
selection. In a production home environment,
modular construction can be employed without
every house looking the same. The system also
allows users to create connection and response to
local conditions. By combining a prefabricated
core and high performance energy technologies
with vernacular architecture and local materials
and methods, housing can be created with better
local economic regeneration, lower material
costs, and less overall embodied energy.
Countless other variations are possible. The
cores flexible, transportable, and modular
nature allows it to be used in diverse
applications, from off-grid vacation cabins to
high-density in-fill housing. Cores can be
stacked in multi-story designs. They can be
combined with local materials and methods. Over
time, the footprint size can change as the
lifestyle of the owner evolves, adding rooms for
a larger family or removing rooms as the nest
empties.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
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Clockwise from left longitudinal section, cross
section through clerestory, west kitchen
elevation drawing, east kitchen elevation
drawing, cross section through mechanical
storage attic.
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Engineering a New Paradigm The University of
Colorado house design is based on a modular and
prefabricated engineering spine. The spine,
formed by conventional shipping containers,
provides structure and life support.
Programmatically, it comprises the kitchen,
laundry, bathrooms, and equipment spaces, and
includes the building electrical service and all
plumbing and HVAC systems. In their specific
design, there are two shipping containers the
competition module including a container for the
kitchen, bathroom, and systems area, while the
second container houses the laundry, master
bathroom, and guest bathroom. The engineering
spine offers the opportunity for modular mass
production. UC Boulder chose to use surplus
shipping containers, although conventional
construction methods could also be used. In any
case, the spine elements include standard
configurations of high-value kitchen and bath
spaces while allowing a selection of custom
cabinetry and fixtures by the owner.
Prefabricated, wired, and plumbed, these
containers can be shipped directly to the
construction site where they are connected to the
homes electrical service, water main, and
sewer.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
Top left north elevation of module with CORE
illustrated in yellow. Bottom left south
elevation of module with CORE illustrated in
yellow.
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Engineering a New Paradigm While conventional
homes typically have HVAC registers or baseboard
heaters along the outside walls, a well-insulated
house with high-performance windows does not
require heating and cooling at the perimeter. By
centralizing the HVAC system within the spine,
heating and cooling loads can be met with smaller
pressure losses, less air leakage, and lower
material costs. By locating all equipment in the
spine, the system can be prefabricated,
minimizing or eliminating the need for mechanical
contractors at the construction site. While the
University of Colorado design takes advantage of
modularity and factory methods for the high-value
portions of the building, their design does not
seek to prefabricate the entire house. Rather,
their approach provides architectural flexibility
in the design of the building exterior shape and
envelope system, avoiding the cookie-cutter
sameness of conventional modular housing. In UC
Boulders design, the walls and roof of the house
can take any form and use any appropriate
construction material. With proper engineering,
it is also possible for the spine to be used for
structural support.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
Top left east elevation of module with CORE
illustrated in yellow. Bottom left west
elevation of module with CORE illustrated in
yellow.
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Building Integrated Photovoltaic/Thermal
System While there is ample evidence that zero
energy homes can be built today with
off-the-shelf technologies, not all necessary
technologies are economically competitive. In
particular, additional development is required to
improve the competitiveness of PV technology.
One opportunity for reduced PV cost is better
integration within the building envelope,
specifically, the roof. Most current systems are
installed over the roof, with additional cost for
the PV support system and framing. Integration
would eliminate redundant construction elements
and improve overall cost effectiveness.
Working with industry manufacturers, our design
showcases a prototypical BIPV system in which the
PV system is the weatherproof membrane of the
roof. The European system, manufactured by Ernst
Schweizer Company, allows full-size PV modules
from a variety of manufacturers to be coated and
mounted without additional shingles underneath.
In our case, we are using 8.8 kW of SunPower
modules with one of the highest efficiencies on
the market. The system provides a single,
uniform, weather-proof plane for the competition
module roof. This same system will also produce
more energy over a year than is required by the
full house, thus making it a zero-energy
home. The PV roof will be further integrated
with the building mechanical system with a
network of water tubing, manufactured by Thermo
Dynamics Ltd., between the PV modules and the
roof insulation. The water flowing behind the PV
modules will cool the PV modules, increasing PV
efficiency and providing hot water for the house
when needed. The roof will also be used as a sky
radiator in the summer, cooling water at night
for use in air conditioning during the day.
Axonometric of competition module showing PV/T
cells on roof.
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  • High Performance Envelope Systems
  • Smart Glass
  • High performance windows can substantially reduce
    heat from the sun and greatly increase window
    insulation.
  • External radiated heat is reflected.
  • Direct heat from the sun is reduced.
  • Internal radiated heat is reflected.
  • UC Boulder design uses Heat Mirror -
    low-emissivity, coated films suspended inside an
    insulating glass unit - to achieve exceptional
    thermal and optical properties. The airspaces
    created by the suspended the film, filled with a
    noble gas, further increase the windows thermal
    performance. The glazings have a thermal
    resistance of R-12.5, a solar heat gain
    coefficient of 0.4, and a visible transmittance
    of 0.54. High resistance fiberglass frames
    complete the package.
  • Passive Solar
  • With appropriately selected glazing and
    dimensionally correct shade devices and louvers,
    passive solar design techniques are applied to
    both the south and north wings of the full house.
    In the summer, the awning and shades are
    designed to block direct exposure to the living
    room and sunspace. The sunspace is ventilated or
    opened up to the courtyard. In the winter, full
    solar gains help heat the mass within the home
    during the day and reduce heating loads through
    the night.
  • Building Integrated Overhangs
  • Passive design strategies seek to design
    overhangs or louvers that admit solar energy in
    the winter and shade the solar energy in the
    summer. By placing the window pane inboard of
    the custom jamb-sill assembly, the window header
    acts as the shade, without the use of an overhang
    or awning. The optimal depth is dictated by the
    location latitude.

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  • Materials
  • Marine plywood
  • MDF
  • Gypsum board
  • Bamboo
  • Linoleum
  • Paper composite
  • HDPE
  • HDPE
  • Porcelain tile
  • Carpet
  • Paint
  • VOC sealer
  • Watersealer
  • Backer board
  • Location
  • Shipping container flooring subflooring
  • Cabinetry
  • All interior wall ceiling surfaces
  • Kitchen bathroom cabinetry
  • Living room bedroom flooring (snap in place)
  • Kitchen bathroom counter surfaces
  • Kitchen backsplash mechanical closet door
  • Bathroom door shower door
  • Bathroom entry floor surfaces
  • Living room bedroom floor surfaces (snap in
    place)
  • All interior surfaces
  • Shipping container flooring subflooring
  • Bathroom floor surface
  • bathroom

Interior photo of the competition module bedroom
during public tour.
Manufacturer photos of some of the interior
materials.
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Appliances In keeping with the Solar Decathlon
requirements of zero-energy design, the
appliances incorporated in the University of
Colorado design are highly energy efficient.
Unlike some of the other entries prefabricated
kitchen modules, the UC Boulder scheme uses an
assembly of off the shelf products from many of
the nations leading appliance manufacturers.
Selections were made based on energy efficiency,
space efficiency, and cost. The combination of
appliances functioned successfully in accordance
with the overall competition parameters.
Clockwise from top left refrigerator
dimensions, Trivection oven installation,
Trivection oven control panel, combination
washer/dryer, burnproof stovetop, and under
counter dishwasher dimensions.
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Left interior rendering of space above the
bedroom as it might appear on a late summer
afternoon. Right lighted rendering of kitchen
with ambient and task lighting.
Lighting analysis Initially, the lighting scheme
(i.e. indirect, direct, and/or semi-direct
lighting) was decided for each room of the house.
Preliminary lighting analyses for each space
were conducted using a Lumen Method spreadsheet,
in order to determine an approximate number of
required lumens, based upon the type of lighting.
Next, appropriate light fixtures were selected to
achieve the desired illuminance values. After
each option of lighting type and placement was
developed, AGI 32 was used to determine
illuminance levels provided by the lighting
fixtures at specific points within the 3D model
of the house. Several different iterations were
then run to help determine the correct quantity
and placement of fixtures to meet the foot-candle
requirements of the competition and to achieve
desired aesthetics for the particular spaces.
Additionally, daylighting calculations were
performed with AGI32 as well. Key locations
within the space were monitored at different
times of day and times of year, to minimize glare
problems and ensure adequate daylight delivery
during important hours of the day.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
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Chart showing different fixtures and their uses
included in the competition module.
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Comfort Zone The Solar Decathlon teams design
their houses to remain a steady, uniform,
comfortable temperature and humidity throughout.
Full points for this contest are awarded for
maintaining narrow temperature (72F/22.2C -
76F/24.4C) and relative humidity (40 - 55)
ranges inside the houses.
from www.solardecathlon.org
Left diagrammatic drawing showing operation of
water to water heat pump unit used in competition
entry. Right graph of heat pump performance.
High Efficiency Water to Water Heat Pump Using
the EnergyPlus whole house energy model, the
water to water heat pump was sized based on the
peak heating and cooling loads. A water to water
heat pump was chosen because it is compatible
with the system with two thermal storage tanks
and is inherently more efficient than air to air
or air to water systems. In addition, it is
possible to use refrigerant R410A instead of R22
with this system, which has zero ozone depleting
potential and will lessen the houses
environmental impact.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
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Architecturally Integrated Heat Exchangers The
design of low energy building HVAC systems
requires a balance between energy efficiency
methods and providing a suitable indoor
environment for occupants. The University of
Colorado house uses architecturally integrated
(hybrid forced air / radiant) heat exchangers to
condition the space. The heat exchangers consist
of 2m tall bundles of copper pipes in a 2-row
staggered arrangement. Values for approximate
heat transfer characteristics were determined
analytically based on calculations for tube
bundles. The heat exchangers utilize heating hot
water and chilled water from a heat pump/thermal
storage system to supply heating and cooling to
the space. The system utilizes both the radiant
effect of the heat exchangers, forced convection,
and buoyancy driven flow along the tubes for heat
transfer. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
analysis was used to predict the comfort
parameters for determining the predicted mean
vote (PMV), mean age of air, and draught in the
room.
from http//solar.colorado.edu
Top diagram of free-convection driven airflow
during cooling mode. Bottom temperatures for
natural convection (top), forced convection
(second to top), heat recovery (third from top),
and contour of absorber plate (bottom).
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Case 1 BABM Benchmark house simulation results
show a maximum energy use in January of 8,382MJ,
a minimum of 4,017MJ in September and annual
energy use of 70,632MJ. High energy use in winter
months can be attributed to the heating dominated
climate of Denver, CO and the relative
inefficiency of an air-to-air heat-pump with low
source-side temperatures. Note that cooling
energy is required in June per the modification
to the benchmark assumption discussed previously.
Also note that water heating loads vary as
expected due to the variation in mains
temperature throughout the seasons.
Chart showing the average energy consumption per
year for a residence in Denver, CO.
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Case 2 Denver, CO The prototype results show
the drastic impact of energy efficiency measures
and site generation on overall energy use and
annual energy balance. Peak loads still appear in
the winter months, but the curve is flattened
with additional peaks occurring in the summer
cooling season. Peak electricity use occurs in
January at 2,814MJ nearly 34 the peak load of
the benchmark. October is the month with the
lowest electricity use at 2,087MJ. Annual energy
use is 28,985MJ, or 41 of the benchmark energy
usage. Note the relatively low heating and
cooling energy required for space conditioning,
due to the higher efficiency of the
water-to-water heat-pump and coupled thermal
storage. Note also the decrease in lighting
loads as function of an increased percentage of
fluorescent lighting.
Left monthly energy consumption for prototype
in Denver, CO. Right total solar energy
production and outdoor heat exchanger energy
capture for Denver, CO.
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Case 3 Phoenix, AZ Results from the Phoenix
simulation can be seen in the figure below.
Total energy peaks during summer months as
expected due to the cooling dominated climate
heat-pump cooling energy is approximately 2.4
times that of Denver. Energy requirements in
July total 5,234MJ and total 37,531MJ annually.
Net electricity production reaches 44,417MJ
annually, resulting in net electricity production
Chart showing the monthly energy
consumption/production for the prototype in
Phoenix, AZ.
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Case 4 Sterling, VA The energy use profile
for the prototype house in Virginia shows similar
trends when compared to Denver. Both locations
show nearly equal heating and cooling peaks with
the lowest energy use occurring during the swing
seasons. Peak electricity use occurs in July at
3,774MJ, while October is the month with the
lowest electricity use at 2,044MJ. Annual energy
use for Sterling is 33,269MJ and total electrical
production is 33,857MJ. The same house in
Virginia is still a net energy producer albeit at
a much smaller margin than either Denver or
Phoenix. This can be attributed to the
relatively high HVAC and pump energy use and
lower overall electricity production from PV due
to a higher incidence of cloud cover.
Chart showing monthly total energy use for the
prototype in Sterling, VA.
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Conclusions The CU prototype home shows
significant energy savings when compared to the
Building America Benchmark home. Energy
efficiency measures implemented in the prototype
home result in a reduction in electricity use by
59 over the benchmark. The PV/T system is more
than capable of providing enough electrical and
thermal energy to satisfy all energy
requirements, resulting in a home that is a net
energy producer in all three test climates.
Optimization of system controls will likely have
a significant impact on total energy use as
indicated by the adverse effects of an increased
setpoint temperature. The modest impact of the
PV/T system over a standard BIPV installation on
total energy use must be considered as an
alternative to additional PV, but must be
carefully evaluated for each climate.
Chart showing total monthly electricity use for
prototype without PV/T system in Denver, CO.
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Communications The Communications contest
challenges teams to communicate about the
technical aspects of their homes as well as their
experiences to a wide audience through Web sites
and public tours. Points are awarded based on
success in delivering clear and consistent
messages and images that represent the vision,
process, and results of each team's project. To
judge this contest, a jury of Web site
development and public relations experts evaluate
the team Web sites and experience student-led
tours of each home. The jurors evaluate how
informative and engaging the Web site content is,
as well as how easy it is to find that
information. The sites must also adhere to
technical standards. Jurors also evaluate the
house tour content and presentation by tour
guides.
from www.solardecathlon.org
Top and middle left images of the UC Boulder
winning competition entry from 2002. Bottom
left UC Boulder winning entry from 2005. Bottom
right a UC Boulder team member leads the Solar
Decathlon judges through the teams 2007
competition entry.
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The University of Colorado offers a prototype
geared for mass production of zero-energy homes
that meet the strict demands of a competitive
market and offers the same or a better level of
comfort as any production home. Code named the
REAL (Renewable Energy Accessed at Low-cost)
System, it presents a methodology for the mass
production and distribution of a mechanical core
designed to be the heart of any solar powered
home. It also outlines a procedure for mass
customization that enables consumers not only to
specify appliances and finishes, but to determine
entire floor plans and wall constructions
appropriate for any geographic location, building
site, and living situation. In this study, we
sought to first understand the general housing
market and key trends within that market. They
then sought to define and estimate the size of a
consumer segment within the housing market that
would be most likely to buy a zero-energy home.
Next, they developed a series of key market
differentiators that would propel the market
viability of the REAL Houses among consumers and
industry even during a sluggish home market.
These drivers became the teams design goals and
acted to shape the REAL House System and the
marketable prototype presented on the National
Mall. The contest criteria of livability,
buildability, and flexibility have been at the
heart of the design approach to the UC Boulder
prototype from the inception. Their prototype is
ultimately the size of an average home, takes
advantage of the benefits offered by a modular,
prefabricated mechanical core, and allows for
customization of the larger envelope. These
traits, combined with an array of efficiency
components including innovative use of a building
integrated PV system and heat exchangers, creates
clear benefits outlined in the competition
criteria.
Transportation of the competition module.
Pre Fab Meets Mass Customization
from http//solar.colorado.edu
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Contemporary western American suburb.
Pre Fab Meets Mass Customization The U.S.
housing market has been in decline since 2005 and
the future housing forecast index indicates the
national housing market will continue to struggle
in the near future. The University of Colorado
system however, has been designed to respond to 3
key market trends (shown below) which will allow
it to remain competitive throughout the housing
market decline. According to their research, the
University of Colorado has created an industrial
system for production of zero-energy houses that
have a strong likelihood of garnering consumer
acceptance in western U.S. housing markets.
Market size estimates indicate the potential for
over 7.5 million possible customers and REAL
Houses are conceived to appeal to buyers,
builders, communities, policymakers, and
financiers equally.
  • Response/Opportunity
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy
    infrastructure.
  • Mass customization.
  • Mass production of modular mechanical core.
  • Trend/Need
  • Demand for environmentally friendly housing.
  • Demand for uniquely suited homes.
  • Rising costs of labor, materials and land.

from http//solar.colorado.edu
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