a visit to the solar decathlon

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Last Friday I had the pleasure of touring the Solar Roofpod, the 2011 Solar Decathlon entry of City College of New York (CCNY). Accompanied by Dennis Wedlick, AIA, a New York architect who taught some of the students who worked on this project, and two of my colleagues, I braved the rain to check out this sleek, opaque-glass-clad dwelling. (See below for an interior photo.)

The Solar Roofpod represents a creative solution to the very urban problem of limited buildable area. It's designed to perch on a rooftop, adding residential space without taking up any extra land. Its walls are made of insulated, customizable building blocks, and it's topped with a solar trellis of PV panels and evacuated tube solar collectors. "It could be used as residential, live/work, or as part of a hotel," said Professor Christian Volkmann.

We talked to some of the CCNY students about their experience designing and building this project. "We asked the question, how can a rooftop become a living experience?" said architecture student Farah Ahmad. Their enthusiasm for hands-on design/build was palpable. "You've got to know how to build a building to be a good designer," said Ahmad's classmate Alex Gurevich. "Style clearly mattered, but it wasn't design concern number one. For me, that was modularity and prefab. Function needs to translate through form."

Wedlick's CCNY class took the design for the Solar Roofpod and adapted it to other urban and climatic situations, such as single-family homes in Houston, multiple units atop an abandoned building in Minneapolis, and backyard cottages in Seattle. All of the CCNY students have spent a lot of time thinking about issues of density, cost-efficiency, energy production, and energy conservation--all key components of a sustainable future.--m.d.

interior solar roofpod



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