This past weekend, a jury of architects, engineers, and market experts scored Team Austria’s home entry as the winner of the United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a student design competition aimed at educating and encouraging thought about the affordability and efficiency of solar homes. As AN reported, the Team Austria private residential design is environmentally sensitive and easily adaptable, chosen for its overall energy efficiency, attractiveness of design, cost, and comfortable living conditions.
However, of the 19 designs by collegiate teams from the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Austria presented in Irvine, California, the public had a dissenting opinion about the Decathlon winner. The People’s Choice Award vote went to UrbanEden from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; this concrete and glass-based modern structure was the majority’s favorite home entry.
UrbanEden is a four-room home designed for ease of indoor to outdoor flexibility. It is envisioned as existing within the urban city of Charlotte and has been designed with materials for noise reduction as well as energy efficiency. The structure is built of geopolymer cement concrete, which the team claims is “one of the first-known uses of a geopolymer mix in a building envelope.” Inside its walls are a series of tubes circulating cool water to remove heat inside the house without a compressor or refrigerant.
The entire south wall is constructed of glass windows and leads to an exterior patio that can be covered, weather permitting, by a retractable photovoltaic panel roof. The patio has a vertical garden to provide greenery, privacy, and a potential food source.
With these innovative technologies, the entry won third place in the Solar Decathlon Engineering Contest. However, in aesthetics, the home also makes an impression. Light-filled rooms and the easy accessibility to an outdoors terrace provide a balance of nature within an urban environment. With the beauty and comfort of its design, the DOE believes that UrbanEden earns its People’s Choice Award. Solar Decathlon comments: “UrbanEden is a house people can imagine themselves living in. A house that could easily become a home.”