Future House – 2011 Solar Decathlon

If you follow our twitter handle @pendulum_kc, you are aware that we are keenly interested in the advancement of solar technology.  So much so that our office building is headed in the direction of being 75% independent of “the grid” by the end of 2012.  That being said, we were excited to attend the Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. this year and get up to speed on where solar is headed.  One of the most exciting takeaways of the trip was the encouraging reality that the cost of solar panels as an individual component of a turn-key system is dropping rapidly, making this not so new technology more accessible to the masses.  With the cost of panels at half of what it was in the not so distant past, the idea of solar as a viable alternative to conventional energy sources especially at the residential and small commercial level has caused many to take note.

Diversity In Delivery

Beyond advancements in technology and increased affordability we were equally excited about the diversity in design and delivery of the entries in the competition this year.  Although there were varied levels of craftsmanship and execution, some of the design solutions were simply spectacular.  The images below illustrate some of the variety in materials, massing, design features and aesthetic on display.

One of the most impressive aspects of the competition aside from the work itself was the judging criteria.  The ten categories listed below focused almost exclusively on function, efficiency, and affordability; the question of whether your family can actually live a “normal” life in the space had to be addressed.  Design and aesthetic was also taken into consideration but was clearly not the singular driving factor in the accumulation of points.

Competition Criteria

1.0 Architecture (drawings & specifications)

2.0 Market Appeal

3.0 Engineering (drawings & specifications)

4.0 Communications (website & public exhibit)

5.0 Affordability

6.0 Comfort Zone (71 – 76 Degrees F)

7.0 Hot Water (deliver 15 gallons of 110 degree water within 10 minutes)

8.0 Appliances (refrigerator, freezer, 8 load of laundry, complete four cooking tasks during the week)

9.0 Home Entertainment (Host Two dinner parties – use TV, Computer, watch a movie)

10.0 Energy Balance (produce at least as much electrical energy as consumed during the week)

For more information on the competition visit the official Solar Decathlon website.

East Village Apartments Update

Turning the Corner

The East Village master plan is well under way with 75% of construction on the phase one apartment building complete.  Finishing touches on the brick and stucco envelope as well as installation of balcony railings, balcony deck material, metal facias and architectural lighting will bring exterior work to a conclusion just in time for cold weather conditions. Major progress is being made on interior finishes and painting with carpeting and millwork almost complete on the third and fourth floors.

Window Seat

One of the key elements of our early design concept was a focus on views from living spaces within the apartments out to the surrounding built environment.  This called for oversized window openings with operable panels a bit more advanced than standard double hung units.  Although it was a major fight through value engineering sessions to preserve this element of the design, we feel the final outcome was well worth the effort.  Even with the separate development of a parking garage along the western edge of our site we were able to preserve vistas to the horizon as illustrated below.

View From 4th Floor - Behind Glass
View From 4th Floor - Open Window