Solar Decathlon 2013: InSite
A team from Vermont’s Middlebury College designed and built this small house for Solar Decathlon 2013. InSite, as it is called, is intended to meet the needs of young Vermont families. The team focused on energy conservation and passive technologies that don’t require ongoing maintenance. They also used a lot of locally-sourced and reclaimed materials such as the barn wood siding.
InSite has a 971 ft2 (90.2 m2) floor plan, not including the mechanical room. In the main living space, a large island separates the kitchen from the sitting area and the corner dining nook. The home’s steel structural skeleton and ductwork were left exposed in the living area for an industrial chic look, with wood finishes adding warmth.
There is a nice separation between the living area and the bedrooms, keeping noise levels down for sleepers and allowing for bathroom trips without going through or being seen from the living space. The bedrooms were intentionally made small, encouraging the residents to spend more time together in the social spaces. Speaking of noise levels, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to have the laundry machines right in the living area. We’d flip the laundry closet around so that it opened into the bathroom instead.
Being designed for the Vermont climate, InSite has somewhat less window area and more insulation than most of the Solar Decathlon competitors. The walls are 14 inches thick and packed with cellulose insulation. With its shed roof sloping to the north, the house presents a low profile to northerly winter winds. The roof is a green roof, planted with sedum, which adds to the thermal envelope.
The centrally-located mechanical room keeps plumbing, duct and wiring runs short, saving some money on installation and minimizing the heat loss from hot water lines. The mechanical room is the tallest part of the house so that it can act as a cooling chimney, venting hot air out vents at its top and cooling the house through natural convection.
Plans for the Solar Decathlon houses are in the public domain. You can download detailed plans for InSite from the Solar Decathlon website.
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