ECO-STRUCTURE recently caught up with Spencer Culhane, faculty advisor for the 4D Home, a joint entry from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon.

How is your solar paneling unique?

Our team utilized a hybrid solar hot-water collector under six of our PV panels. This allowed us to cool a portion of our array, thus increasing the efficiency of the system while generating hot water.

What other sustainable features have you incorporated into your design?

Our house is designed to meet Passive House standards in a Boston climate. The specific primary heating demand is less than 4.75 kBtu per square foot per year.  We accomplished this through a combination of super insulation and maximized solar heat gains. The combined result is a home that can be heated with the energy of a single hair dryer in the winter.

What was the inspiration of your design, and does it display any regional influences?

Our project's design celebrates the vernacular architecture of New England.  The symmetrical gable form is reflected in a gable trellis supporting the PV array offset from the entry.

How has the new affordability criteria affected the design of your house?

Our team focused on affordability as a primary goal of the project. Our documented construction budget was $267,000.

What will happen to the house after the Solar Decathlon? 

This spring, a family in rural Maine will move into the home.