ECO-STRUCTURE recently caught up with Hua Guodong, project architect for Y Container, the entry from Shanghai’s University of Tongji for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon.

How is your solar paneling unique?

The cutting-edge technology we used in our house includes a hot water system and an air-conditioning system. We use a thermal collector on the rooftop to generate domestic hot water and a thermal radiation floor system. The small water tubes under the floor take responsibility as a great compensation and electricity saving solution to the air-condition system. 

What other sustainable features have you incorporated into your design?

Recycled containers and a specially designed series of features and technology to adapt to this house—this is the most sustainable feature we have.

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

The Y shape originated from the image of a plant bud. Shanghai, as an important shipping terminal for all of Asia, has an abundance of wasted containers, so the regional influence is very obvious. When we tried to find a sustainable solution for our solar house, we accidentally found that the best approach was always with these containers, which we’ve gotten familiar with.

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

We use recycled containers to offset the expense of solar technology and high–performance insulation, and controlled the price to lower than $250,000. The price of six recycled containers is only $6,000, so the main structure and the water-proof system are really cheap.

What will happen to the house after the Solar Decathlon?

It will be reconstructed in a permanent exhibition area in our campus for exhibition and education.