November 5, 2009 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Photo: Washington Post
LUMENHAUS, Virginia Tech’s 2009 entry to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition, is an architectural space incorporating open, flowing spaces linking occupants to each other within the house and to nature outside.
Inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, the north and south walls are all glass, maximizing the owner’s exposure to bright, natural daylight. The fully automated Eclipsis System, comprising independent sliding layers, engages solar power, while filtering light in beautiful, flowing patterns throughout the day.
The design utilizes a “whole building design” construction approach, in which all the home’s components and systems have been designed to work together to maximize user comfort with environmental protection.
The technology employed is intended to make the owner’s life simpler, more energy and cost efficient. A good example of responsive architecture, LUMENHAUS operates completely self sufficiently, a zero-energy home that is completely powered by the sun, responding to environmental changes automatically, balancing energy efficiency with user comfort. Other sustainable features include the use of passive energy systems, radiant heating and building materials that are from renewable and/or recyclable sources.
Energy collected during the day will be radiated back out at night through a low-energy, long-lasting Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting system. LED lights are extremely energy-efficient light fixtures that emit a very high-quality white light. They produce more lumens per watt than traditional incandescent bulbs. They also have extremely long lives and are very durable, being resistant to heat, cold and shock.
Water efficiency: The roof is sloped to collect rainwater that is filtered for potable (drinkable) use in the house, while water used in the house (greywater – from the shower, bathroom sink and clothes washer) goes through a series of bio-filters in the surrounding landscape where it is cleaned for non-potable use.
Responsive sliding panels are designed to maximize the house’s energy efficiency in changing weather conditions.
The house is completely solar-powered using a powerful array of Photovoltaic (PV) panels to provide carbon-neutral energy to the house. The PVs, arranged in a single array that covers the roof, are built into the house during construction. The panels are bifacial, meaning they use both sides to increase energy output by up to 15 percent. Using an electric actuator, the entire PV array can be tilted to the optimal angle for each season (from zero degrees to a 17-degree angle in summer and to a 35-degree angle in winter). Having the array at the correct angle allows for maximum solar energy collection. There will also be PV wafers located within the skylight in the bathroom.