Things tend to happen in clusters — you notice one cool piece of architecture, for example, and then you start seeing or hearing about it everywhere. So of course, just as the Department of Energy’s annual Solar Decathalon started in DC this week, I got Nano House in the mail, which features the work of last year’s International Solar Decathalon champions — a team from our own Virginia Tech.
Under the tutelage of Professor Robert Dunay, director for Tech’s Center for Design Research, and faculty members Joseph Wheeler, Rober Schubert and David Clark, his team built the LumenHAUS, an elegant little house that employs both ancient architectural concepts and cutting-edge technology to create an utterly self-sufficient environment. These concepts and their design beat out 17 other international universities in Madrid last year, after making an appearance at the decathalon in DC the year before.
“What is best about the house is the sophisticated integration of technology and architecture,” Dunay wrote in an e-mail. “Every technical decision was measured in relation to its contribution to spatial quality.” You can see a video of him explaining the project at the 2009 Solar Decathalon below -
Sliding screens comprised of 9,000 individually designed metal disks are inspired by ancient Middle Eastern grids designed to protect from the brutal summer sun. Even when closed, they admit sunlight into the house:
Ponds are built and planted with landscaping not only to create lovely outdoor spaces, but they also are strategic, to cool the air before it enters the house:
And here’s the coolest part: The house has its own weather station, “a slim pole topped with sensors that relay information on temperature and atmosphere to the house’s central computer system, which is controlled by and iPad interface that monitors the energy use throughout the house.”
The computer, therefore, decides when to open or close the screens and other insulation panels, depending on available light and temperature. Here’s an interior view of the house, which is currently on display at Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, IL:
Nano House, by Phyllis Richardson (Thames & Hudson, $29.95), features more than 40 projects around the world, all under 807 square feet, chosen to “provoke a discussion about design, efficiency, sustainability, proportion, harmony, function and necessity.”
The photography is stunning, as is the architecture — everything from an egg-shaped pod in a cornfield to a “merry go round” house made up of alcoves (one of them hot pink) that surround an inner-core shower area.
The five chapters cover actual built houses, mobile structures, “micro retreats” for holidays and weekends, dwellings built to showcase energy efficiency (where LumenHAUS is profiled), and housing that can be built in multiples, which can be used as affordable housing or emergency shelter. Here’s a taste of some other houses in the book that I was particularly drawn to:
For any architecture junkie, this is definitely worth a spot on your coffee table. The publisher reports that it’s out this month, but Amazon is still just on pre-order. Reserve it!