ECO-STRUCTURE recently caught up with Abbie Faust, lead architect for enCORE, The Ohio State University’s entry for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon.  

How is your solar paneling unique?

The solar panels on the enCORE house are thin-film panels, a cost-effective alternative to the more expensive monocrystalline panels.  These panels also have the benefit of not losing as much efficiency in cloudy weather, making them ideal for Ohio weather. They’re made in Ohio as well. We designed the panels to be integrated into the form of the house. Its monolithic form slopes up from south to north, veiling the solar racking behind.

What other sustainable features have you incorporated into your design?

The enCORE house took a holistic approach to conserve energy.  The exterior floor, walls, and ceiling are super insulated, the triple-pane windows are strategically located to allow for ventilation and natural light, and the roof form collects rainwater that is filtered along the breezeway. Our solar hot-air collectors save energy in both the summer and winter. We used Ohio materials when possible.

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

From the beginning, this house was designed as a home for a family taking advantage of every square foot. The program, plan strategies, and exterior focus on an urban family’s needs, including our version of the front porch, two bedrooms, and a full kitchen and bath. The extruded polycarbonate skin pays homage to the local industrial site, while the next layer of cedar is a familiar residential exterior cladding.

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

The affordability criteria is a welcome challenge that grounds the competition in reality. Knowing that this was to be a family home, we wanted it to be spacious and affordable. Using materials like the extruded polycarbonate typically seen on greenhouses helped us achieve a cost-effective skin on the large façades.

What will happen to the house after the Solar Decathlon?

We expect the enCORE house to be on Ohio State’s main campus in Columbus for a year to be visited by students and the public. After the first year, we’re hoping to make the house part of a new low-income postindustrial residential area near campus.