Volume 46, Issue 10 - November 2011


Solar Decathlon Houses Feature PV, BIPV and Energy-Efficient Windows
Among the 19 houses built as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fifth Solar Decathlon, held in September in Washington, D.C., were several that made innovative use of energy-efficient glass. The annual event challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

The University of Tennessee’s 740-square-foot Living Light zero-energy house featured 40 feet of glass along the north and south faces, with 85 percent of its exterior envelope being glass, said Amy Howard, project manager. “The north and south walls are double-glass façades with the outer pane being single pane, R1 with a low-E coating, and the inner wall is two layers of glass, two layers of Mylar with argon fill,” she said. “That’s where we have the insulating value.” The suspended film allows the entire wall system to be R10, she said.

AGC Flat Glass North America of Alpharetta, Ga., supplied all the glass in the house. Kawneer Co. of Norcross, Ga., supplied the aluminum framing system.

The solar panels on the house came from Solyndra of Fremont, Calif. “The flat orientation allows us to extend the array as a shading device,” Howard said. Each solar panel produces 182 watts per hours.

University of Calgary’s Technological Residence, Traditional Living (TRTL) zero-energy house featured a photovoltaic (PV) system that operates 93 percent of its optimal efficiency, said Mikhael Horvath, mechanical lead. The total array of 32 solar panels, from Conergy of Germany, produce 8.7 kW. The house, called “Turtle,” also featured triple-glazed windows from Innotech Windows and Doors of Abbotsford, B.C. The windows have an R5-plus rating, two low-E coatings, warm-edge spacers, argon fill and hybrid steel framing, said Al Jaugelis, technical director of Innotech.

The Appalachian State University’s zero-energy Solar Homestead featured a solar canopy that created an outdoor living space, said Chelsea Royall, a team member. “The bifacial solar panels from Sanyo are integrated in the architecture, and produce 8.2 kW and 195 watts per panel,” she said. The concentrating solar skylight supplies all the hot water used in the home. All the windows in the house were triple-glazed, R5, supplied by Kolbe & Kolbe of Wausau, Wis., except for the Trombe wall window. The Trombe window stores heat during the day and releases during the night, according to Royall.

Florida International University’s perFORM[D]ance house used floor-to-ceiling glass for exterior walls and foldable doors from NanaWall of Mill Valley, Calif., on three sides, said Deana Sritalapat, a team member. “The south walls are relatively solid because we didn’t want it overheated,” she said. “The glass is impact-resistant and provides the maximum amount of natural lighting while oriented north to provide a minimum level of heat gain. The interior of the glass is protected by operable shades and the exterior of the glass is protected by an operable louver system.” SunPower in San Jose, Calif., supplied the solar panels on the house.

New Zealand-based Victoria University of Wellington’s First Light house was 20 percent glass. “All the glass is triple-glazed, argon-filled and tempered,” said team member Sophie Prebble. Metro GlassTech of New Zealand supplied the glass.

The Tidewater Virginia team, comprising Old Dominion University and Hampton University, built the Unit 6 Unplugged modular house that featured an outdoor porch with sliding glass walls. The porch could be enclosed by closing the glass walls and worked as a thermal collector. The double-glazed windows in the south face and the triple-glazed windows in the north face were supplied by Gayko of Germany, and the solar panels were from Sanyo and Bosch.

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