Launch Slideshow

2011 Solar Decathlon Outdoor Spaces

2011 Solar Decathlon Outdoor Spaces

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    Jim Tetro

    Appalachian State University
    The Solar Homestead
    Team website: www.thesolarhomestead.com


    Appalachian State team members doubled the size of their 883-square-foot house by using a row of outbuilding modules (OMs) to produce the “great porch.”

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    Jim Tetro

    Shaded by bifacial solar panels that collect reflective light from underneath as well as direct sunlight that shines above, the OMs can be configured in various ways to provide protection from harsh mountain weather while still allowing cool breezes or warming winter sun to maintain pleasant conditions on the porch as well as inside the main house.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Together, the OMs offer homeowners storage and flexible, independently powered living spaces such as guest quarters, a home office, an exercise room, or art studio.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Spaces between the OMs are ideal for sheltered al fresco dining or lounging.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    A built-in outdoor kitchen adds even more possibilities to outdoor living options.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    A cleverly masked exterior shower is located in a deep archway sited across from a purposeful gap between OMs to generate cross-ventilation.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    An homage to Lincoln Memorial architect Henry Bacon, who used bark siding on a group of North Carolina mountain homes in the 1890s, poplar bark shingles adorn the front façade and encase the largest outbuilding as a rustic, low-maintenance, and sustainable exterior finish.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    A detail showing the poplar bark shingles.

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    Jim Tetro

    Florida International University
    perFORM[D]ance House
    Team website: solardecathlon.fiu.edu  


    According to team members, the perFORM[D]ance House features an open pavilion design that links the interior with the exterior through a layered façade and integrated landscape, and operable louver panels open to extend the interior space and expand the livable space to the exterior.

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    Jim Tetro

    The sliding custom louvers are light and easy to move from deck shading to interior protection positions. In addition to hurricane fortifications, the panels also offer privacy or cool coverage for the translucent window walls.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    A fully retractable glazing system opens interior spaces to the outdoors for maximum cooling effects or encloses the house with insulated glass to provide relief from summer’s heat and humidity.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    The spacious deck with its built-in seating, biofiltration beds, and vegetable gardens nearly doubles the interior foot print.

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    Jim Tetro

    Team Florida: The University of South Florida, Florida State University, The University of Central Florida, and The University of Florida
    FLeX House
    Team website: www.flexhouse.org


    The FLeX House design incorporates separate patios along the north façade that are shaded by a series of fixed and individually operable cypress louvers.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    The louvers along the roof line and the east-facing screens are fixed at the calculated angle of 37.5 degrees for maximum shading from the high summer sun and optimal capture of low winter rays.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Galvalume-clad kitchen cabinets mimic exterior siding and extend seamlessly through the translucent wall to further augment an indoor-outdoor link.

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    Jim Tetro

    The continual glazing on the north-facing glass wall allows natural light to permeate all of the interior public spaces even when the argon-filled sliding doors are closed and further screened with interior shades during times of extreme temperatures.

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    Jim Tetro

    The home’s solid southern elevation is punctuated by one set of sliding doors to promote cross-ventilation during cooler months.

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    Jim Tetro

    New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington
    First Light
    Team website: www.firstlighthouse.ac.nz


    Inspired by the traditional New Zealand holiday home—the Kiwi bach (pronounced batch)—First Light's design reflects a relaxed lifestyle in which socializing and connecting with the outdoors are central to living. At the heart of the design is a glazed central section that functions as a bridge between exterior and interior.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Modular planters in variegated heights connect the house to the surrounding landscape.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Plantings relate to the various ecosystems native to New Zealand including dune grasses, coastal shrubs, forest edge, alpine zone, and backyard gardens.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Raised planters create privacy and form backs for integrated benches.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Decking surrounds the house providing various levels of intimate or open outdoor spaces.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    The decking runs not only around the house but also through the center, allowing occupants to effectively live outside during summer and bringing a sense of the outdoors inside during winter.

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    Jim Tetro

    A triple-glazed skylight and large bi-fold doors illuminate the central section of the house.

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    Jim Tetro

    Tidewater Virginia: Old Dominion University and Hampton University
    Unit 6 Unplugged
    Team website: www.teamtidewaterva.org


    The Tidewater team took a slightly different approach to outdoor living by deciding to focus on a smaller space, but one that can be used every day regardless of the weather.

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    Jim Tetro

    To create a year-round outdoor space, the team designed a transformable porch and placed a 7-foot-by-12-foot motorized window on the front elevation.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    When the window is lowered it acts as a railing and opens the space to pleasant breezes. In the winter it’s warmed by the sun and helps passively heat the space.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    An interior window also fully retracts into the living room wall to give the interior a physical as well as visual connection to the outside.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    A shallow wrap-around veranda helps shade the four-season porch and links it to the rear deck.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    University of Maryland
    WaterShed
    Team website: 2011.solarteam.org


    Maryland’s WaterShed house won the architecture contest and the overall competition. Included in the team’s award-winning design are two primary outdoor spaces totaling 450 square feet. Both spaces—the entry courtyard and the kitchen pergola—sit on a direct axis from one another across the primary living spaces of the house to foster strong cross-ventilation, weather permitting.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Visitors walk past a wetlands garden to reach the concealed courtyard. In addition to linking the house to its native Chesapeake Bay watershed, the wetlands filter a mix of stormwater runoff and the home’s graywater, which is then recycled into irrigation for the indigenous and edible plantings surrounding the house.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    The vertical installation of collection panels for the solar hot water system encloses the entry space to all but one view.

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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    The deep courtyard extends the interior living space with a private exterior area large enough for entertaining.

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    Jim Tetro

    The kitchen pergola directly across from the courtyard offers a different outdoor experience thanks to its opposite exposure and trellised enclosure.
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    Shelley D. Hutchins

    Steps away from the kitchen sink, the pergola is surrounded by vines and other plants offering fruits and vegetables.

The 19 dwellings that competed in the 2011 DOE Solar Decathlon were confined to floor plans from 600 to 1,000 square feet. These compact footprints had to contain "holistic, safe, functional, convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable" places to live as well as mechanical systems that generated more power than team members consumed during a battery of tests and myriad other sustainable technologies. Several design solutions met this multifaceted challenge by expanding habitable areas with outdoor rooms.

The resulting spaces highlight diverse approaches to outdoor living that work in harmony with adjacent interiors. Oversized decks with innovative screening, all-season porches featuring retractable windows, flexible patios strategically protected from and open to certain elements, social courtyards with integrated seating, trellised porticos shaded by food-producing vines, and numerous variations on built-in planters doing much more than enhancing views are just some of the ways teams maximized their homes' indoor-outdoor connections. These thoughtful exterior areas also had a limit of 1,000 square feet, some of which was used for mandatory ADA-compliant ramps. Many teams also needed exterior square footage to meet other contest requirements such as food production, rainwater collection and filtration, or power generation.

Scroll through our slideshow to explore six inventive solutions to functional and elegant outdoor living that enhances and enlivens neighboring interior spaces.