Team Ontario/BC’s solar-powered house glows at night during the lighting design contest at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

North House shines at solar decathlon

October 22, 2009

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North House, an energy-efficient structure designed by students from SFU and two Ontario universities, placed fourth among 20 North American and European schools chosen to compete at the 2009 Solar Decathlon to create the best house powered entirely by the sun.

Team Ontario/BC—which also includes students and faculty from Waterloo and Ryerson—was one of only two Canadian entries in the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored biennial competition on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.

Teams Germany, Illinois and California were the competition’s three medallists, while the four-school consortium Team Alberta came sixth.

The teams each had seven days to erect full-scale houses that were judged in 10 categories to determine the best blend of aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency.

School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) professors Rob Woodbury and Lyn Bartram led SFU’s team. "North House is a radical design with subtle and highly integrated systems," says Woodbury. "It was the clear leader of all entries in human-centred systems for sustainable living."

North House was designed for cold climates. Its features include floor-to-ceiling windows and side-mounted solar panels that capture low-angle sunlight. It also has subfloor salt-hydrate packets that take in heat and release it as the temperature drops. The designers say the house can produce double the energy its occupants consume.

The SIAT team designed the house’s adaptive living interface to give occupants real-time feedback on the home’s energy status. The interface is accessible using a touch-screen wall panel as well as an iPhone application for remote control and feedback. The iPhone app can control lights, exterior shades and interior blinds, temperature and humidity and can even retract the bed into the ceiling to increase floor space.

The North House will be dismantled after the competition and reassembled at Waterloo. The team also hopes to have another model on display at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.



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