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SIAT grad designs solar-powered home

May 29, 2008

To really appreciate architectural designer Davis Marques’ user- and earth-friendly handiwork you’ll have to visit the biennial Solar Decathlon international competition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in September 2009.

That’s the first opportunity the public will have to tour "North House," a fully solar-powered house prototype the M.Sc. graduand from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) is helping to create as part of a collaborative project including SFU, Waterloo and Ryerson universities.

The high-tech dwelling will be competing against 19 other entries from North America and Europe. And it will be full of sun-powered features that can be used in single dwellings and highrises throughout Canada.

The SIAT team is designing the Solar House’s adaptive living interface (ALT), an interactive layer of information systems that are responsive to touch, capable of subtle display, and designed to assist occupants in making informed decisions by providing real-time feedback on the home’s energy status.

"We can design a very efficient house, but if the occupants misuse it, then all that design is for naught," says Marques. "If we make it feel like a fun video game, people might want to play it."

The ALT communicates the energy situation of the house and treats occupants as consumers. "It’s about you and how you live your life, not the house," says Marques.

More than any other factor, he says, human behaviour dictates energy consumption. "We put the person at the centre of the control system rather than the house." Instead of just a temperature read-out, the house’s environmental display will show a person in the middle, with the sun in the sky above, and how much energy it’s contributing that day.

"People should not have to think so much about their energy budget or do all sorts of accounting of kilowatts and kilograms of CO2 produced," says Marques. The goal is to make energy conservation intuitive and just a better way to live. "It should be something you paste on your Facebook page," says Marques.

Can’t make it to D.C.? Not to worry. The North House team is also planning to display its creation at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

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