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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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The University of Illinois’s Re_home fared well in the affordability challenge, project architect Michael Hines says, because of the team’s ability to say, “No.” “A lot of sponsors try to give you the most expensive products,” he says. “Sometimes you have to turn them away.” The Re_home features plenty of insulation—R45 for walls and R60 for the floors and ceilings—and was designed in an efficient, rectangular shape using 2x4 stud construction. The house also includes a 30-panel PV array capable of 7.2 kilowatts. “The weather in D.C. at the end of September is unpredictable and often overcast so we had to oversize our PV system if we wanted to receive maximum points in net metering,” says Mark Taylor, assistant professor at Illinois’s School of Architecture. “That’s where a lot of the cost of the house is.”

The house’s most innovative feature, however, didn’t exactly work as expected: a Newell Instruments–designed Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator (CERV), a low-capacity air conditioner and energy-recovery ventilator combined into one compact system. Perhaps the valve box had a jam or a wire came loose, Taylor says, but only half the system was operating. The team instead relied mainly on natural ventilation to keep the house cool.

Taylor still believes that the CERV concept is commercially viable for an airtight, well-insulated residential house. “It may not have been the best match for a competition in which hundreds of people are touring the house and an hour later the building needed to be at prescribed temperature and humidity levels,” he says.

Hines says that the house will return to the Champaign campus, where it will be used as a teaching and research lab and may help power nearby research buildings with any excess energy it generates.

Estimated cost: $291,812.68
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