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2013 Solar Decathlon: InSite

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

2013 Solar Decathlon: InSite

Project Status

Student Work


U.S. Department of Energy

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Project Description


Our attention to a locally-focused design has lead InSite to grow from its place. From form to materials, the home is inspired by Middlebury, VT and Shannon Street - its future home after the competition. Our design aims to engage the community while also offering the privacy and comforts that appeal to the 21st Century home buyer. With the Five Points of InSiteful Design as our guiding principles, InSite is an elegant example of the future of residential architecture – a future that respects environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

Green Roof
Our north sloping roof accommodates a green roof which will grow a hardy succulent known as sedum. Our green roof will help insulate our home, sequester carbon and help manage storm water runoff.

Solar Path
InSite offers an innovative and replicable approach to solar-powered living. We have taken the solar panels from their conventional place on the roof to create an exterior “Solar Path.” The path passes along the southern front of InSite to forge a pedestrian connection between the town of Middlebury and the college campus. Thus, the “Solar Path” provides power for our home while encouraging walkability in the community. This unique approach to sustainable architecture immediately demonstrates the flexible potential of residential solar power to all passerby.

Steel Structure
To transport InSite from Middlebury, VT to Irvine, CA we have designed a panel system that is supported and joined by a steel structure. This structure composes the “skeleton” of the home, but is visible on the interior. By carefully designing and deliberately exposing the steel connections we encourage visitor’s to learn the intricacies of InSite’s construction while creating an elegant pattern throughout the entire home.

Our walls are 14-in thick and filled with densely-packed cellulose insulation to ensure a comfortable and stable indoor environment. We utilize this thickness to shade the southern windows through thick sills. The dining-nook wall is deeply inset to provide shade in the area with the most glazing. “Pulling” this very transparent wall back into the home compromises approachability with intimacy. In between the bedrooms we use the thick walls to create a window seat that “punches” out of the home while offering the occupants a pleasant space exposed to the natural surroundings. Immersed in the warm sun or the falling snow, the window seat is a moment of contemplative refuge. The dynamic juxtaposition of the dining-nook and window seat physically marks the division between public and private life within the home.

Building Forms
The home rises in three distinct forms: the public space, the private space, and the “chimney core.” We have intentionally designed small bedrooms to encourage residents to live a social lifestyle in the larger public space. InSite’s entrance features a overhanging roof to create a feeling of comfortable transition – once visitors enter the public living space the ceiling opens to the South – expanding the interior with abundant natural Southern light. Exposed steel beams guide the inhabitant or visitor back into the private space where the ceiling drops for a more intimate experience.

Mechanical Chimney
To reduce waste and increase efficiency, we have centralized the mechanical systems of the home into one modular unit. All appliances “plug-in” to this core for water and energy needs. Not only does this form contain all of our active systems, but so too enables passive cooling by means of its height and exterior vents – creating a chimney-effect. We chose the chimney form out of respect for prevalent Vermont vernacular, simultaneously highlighting our interpretation of the 21st century “energy hearth.”

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