Israeli students to build house for Solar Decathlon

30 students construct "entirely energy self-sufficient" house for international competition in China.

Energy sufficient house 370 (photo credit: Sharon Udasin))
Energy sufficient house 370
(photo credit: Sharon Udasin))
In the dusty industrial parking lot of the Hutsot HaMifratz outlet mall in Haifa sits a horizontal kite-shaped house that is anything but grubby and timeworn.
Walking up a handicapped-accessible path, the visitor emerges on a spacious patio as big as the house – decorated with a stone path and furniture, as well as an herb garden irrigated by gray water, produced from activities such as laundry, dishwashing and bathing. Inside the gray-trimmed white concrete façade, the home is a four-room temperate oasis. It is adorned with crisp bamboo furniture and, perhaps most important, is entirely energy self-sufficient.
“It’s a blurring of the border between indoors and outdoors,” said student Yasmeen Lala-Ferro, who was involved in its creation.
The house is two years in the making. Approximately 30 students came together from four academic institutions to compete in the Solar Decathlon in China, an international competition that will take place in August.
Hailing from various architecture, engineering, design and environmental tracks, the students come from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design’s department of interior and built environment design, the College of Management Academic Studies’s department of interior design, Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies and the Neri Bloomfield School of Design.
Leading the students are architects Dr. Joseph Cory, a faculty member at Shenkar College and owner of Geotectura – Sustainable Architecture, and Chen Shalita, owner of Alfa Sustainable Projects.
“I am really proud of the cooperation among all the different institutions,” Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said at the Haifa launch ceremony for the house on Thursday, pinpointing the rich exchange of ideas that has occurred due to the multidisciplinary, multi-institutional presence.
The Solar Decathlon China will take place at Peking University in Datong City from August 1 through 31, and will be hosted by the Chinese National Energy Administration and the US Department of Energy, with additional support from private companies.
Known as the “Olympics of Sustainable Architecture,” the competition was first held in the US in 2002, occurring biennially in odd years since 2005, with additional competitions in Europe in 2010 and 2012, according to the team.
This year, the Solar Decathlon will challenge 20 student teams to design, build and operate solar-powered, net zero energy-consuming houses that operate in an affordable and attractive manner, the Israeli team explained. All in all, the team will have 14 days of construction time, 10 days of competition and exhibition, an evaluation and awards ceremony, and five days to disassemble their creation.
The project has been sponsored by around two dozen companies, many of which are Israeli firms, whose renewable energy technologies are integrated into the house.
Additionally, the project has received support from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Energy and Water Ministry.
“I hope that this project will allow for more Israeli technologies to be advanced all over the world,” said Shlomo Wald, chief scientist of the Energy and Water Ministry, at the launch ceremony.
On the grounds of the house after the ceremony, Lala-Ferro gave The Jerusalem Post a tour of the project inside and out. She began with the open-air patio, which provides a breathing, living space for its residents to enjoy. One wall of the patio is lined with modular pouches for growing herbs and vegetables, a contribution from the Israeli company Invivo- Design which seeks to promote green living in urban environments.
“Everyone [the corporate sponsors] was very responsive because they wanted to be part of the goal of having an environmentally friendly way of living,” said Lala-Ferro, who is an architecture student at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education.
Sliding glass doors lead into a spacious, 70 square meter space that combines the kitchen and living room.
Chrome appliances give the home a modern feel while bamboo furniture serves a dual purpose as functional and stylish. The home is composed of “natural colors” – whites, grays, greens and wood, Lala-Ferro explained.
“Our target audience is an older couple finished raising children and needing a convenient, comfortable home,” she said.
Nearly all of the furniture throughout the house is multipurpose and involves a modular approach, so that portions of the house can be reoriented in the future, according to the team.
The bathroom is “minimal but still roomy,” as Lala-Ferro described it, with a shower that only turns on when it reaches the desired temperature and towel bars that double as heaters.
Throughout the house, windows from the Pythagoras solar company let in light but not heat radiation. Censors throughout the house monitor and control temperature and humidity according to movement and daylight and were produced by the Schneider company.
On the slanted roof that faces into the courtyard sit an array of standard photovoltaic panels and another set of TIGI solar-thermal panels that functions to heat water.
A solar power maximization mechanism by SolarEdge, as well as a smart-energy system by Schneider, manages the electricity of the building and allows for optimal efficiency, two other students, Veronica Zak and Alon Dotan explained to the Post.
Cold and hot water pipes regulate the air conditioning system, while a Phase Changing Material (PCM) system allows for the efficient cooling of water, Dotan added.
On the northern roof of the building, another sloped roof enables a process called radiative night cooling – which induces a cooling effect.
In the competition, the team will not only have to display their house, but they will also have to host a dinner party – including cooking and dishwashing – host a movie night and do laundry, in order to demonstrate the energy and water efficiency of the structure during routine activities, Lala-Ferro explained.
“Being a student you want to do something big and feel like you can solve the world with your one little project,” she said. “We think it’s important for people to realize we’re not just living for today – we’re living for 50, 100 years from now.”