Solar Decathlon Saturday: NYIT




We have already given you a sneak peak at this year's Solar Decathlon entries from the University of Illinois and the University of Cincinnati. This week, we are taking a look at the New York Institute of Technology's solar home - OPEN House. After taking home 5th place at the 2005 Solar Decathlon by showing off a "fully operational solar-hydrogen fuel cell home," the 2007 version of the Decathlon team is looking to turn the judges' heads with an electrical system consisting of an array of 35 solar panels feeding a battery storage system in the home. Heating and cooling is taken care of by a rooftop pool - which will replicate the work of a geothermal system - and a solar thermal system through evacuated tubes.

Inside, OPEN House consists of a core area containing the kitchen, bathroom and mechanical areas and a 480 square foot open living space that can be arranged and rearranged on the fly. The south side of the home features large windows to allow ample light, and warmth in the winter, with a shading device to block summer sun. The NYIT team estimates the shading device will reduce the cooling load by 11 percent annually.

OPEN House won't be short on tech either. One particularly interesting feature is a system that allows the homeowner to check the house's energy performance in real time.

This "dashboard" shows energy production, energy use, and operational details of the integrated mechanical system. As an added feature, the smart house is embedded with a biometric scanner, which will allow entry to the home via a fingerprint, as well as the initiation of that user's home profile. This profile would include details of lighting and space conditioning preferences. The platform can also be used to educate those not immediately comfortable with becoming independent power producers.

Like many of the designs in the Solar Decathlon, NYIT designed OPEN House to have a life beyond the competition. Although the version of OPEN House going to D.C. for the competition cost approximately $400,000, they expect a commercial version could be made for $220,000. And, ultimately, the idea that the competition can help bring solar technology into the mainstream is what motivates the team. As third-year architecture student and Architecture Team Leader Matthew Mathosian explained, "NYIT Solar Decathletes want to educate the public about the aesthetic and ecological benefits of solar energy, and (show) that their solar home can be viably developed."

:: NYIT Solar Decathlon 2007