Today’s technologies are mesmerizing in their diversity and ingenuity. Powered by SANYO’s HIT® Double bifacial solar modules, International Solar Decathlon Europe winner Virginia Tech provides architects, contractors and consumers with a look at how technology, sustainable materials and energy efficiency can enrich the quality of life of its inhabitants without polluting the environment. It’s all packaged in an award-winning, 800 square-foot home of the future known as lumenHAUS™.
The zero-energy, smart grid-ready lumenHAUS manifests a concept known as responsive architecture, which employs state-of-the-art technology to drive the home’s response to internal and external factors like sun, weather, temperature – and, of course, its inhabitants. Its two-fold objectives are to optimize energy efficiency and user comfort while affording the individual as much control over the quality of his living environment as he desires.
“Virginia Tech’s number one emphasis is to educate the public that square one of energy efficiency is gaining an awareness of how you’re using energy, so you don’t waste it,” explained Joe Wheeler, Associate Professor of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech’s) School of Architecture and Design.
Below the home, a thermal loop uses the earth’s constant temperature to cool the floors in the summer and warm them in the winter. But all the home’s energy needs are powered by what’s above the home: an 8.7 kW array of Sanyo bi-facial HIT® Double solar modules.
LumenHAUS is 100% powered by SANYO bi-facial HIT® Double glass-on-glass modules, whose bifacial characteristics generate up to 30% more energy by collecting light from both panel sides. The Virginia Tech team designed a custom tracking system on which to mount the panels to allow them to put their best ‘face’ forward, following the trajectory of the sun to further optimize energy output.
"The solar strategy was the winning edge for the lumenHAUS, both in the system's performance and in our ability to demonstrate to the judges and the public the architectural advantages of the SANYO HIT bifacial photovoltaic panels,” noted Wheeler. “We had the option to select any solar solution in the world for lumenHAUS,” he added. “We chose SANYO’s HIT technology.”
SANYO’s highly-efficient HIT Power® modules are known for their high energy conversion efficiency ratings and their superior performance under cloudy conditions and during the hottest days of the year.
“A regular solar panel has an opaque background, so the sun doesn’t travel through it,” observed Virginia Tech Electrical Engineering graduate Danny Slover. “The SANYO HIT Double has a glass background, so what sun doesn’t get absorbed going through the panel the first time reflects back to connect with the back side of the wafer causing more current to flow to create additional power.”
”SANYO’s engineering teams have risen to the challenge of refining the power generating capabilities of solar photovoltaic technologies for nearly four decades,” added Charles Hanasaki, president of Sanyo’s U.S. Energy System Solutions Division.
“SANYO’s solar cells are rated among the highest certified level for conversion efficiency. With superior performance and aesthetics that create an entirely new solar vernacular for designers like the team at Virginia Tech, we’re able to offer clients attractive solutions that give them more for their solar dollar,” Hanasaki said. The fact that Sanyo’s silicon ingots and wafers, (core materials in the manufacturing of SANYO solar modules), are manufactured here in the U.S. adds more value.
The lumenHAUS structure showcases perforated, stainless steel shade screens featuring laser-cut elliptical discs to ameliorate temperature extremes, either blocking sun and providing cross breezes or introducing sun to provide warmth. The pattern across the entire south facade blocks all unwanted summer light while allowing beautiful dappled winter light in when the sun is low.
The design perforations are patterned to accommodate myriad views and privacy options. More horizontal openness is included in the living spaces, where view is a priority. In the bedroom, higher screen density down low provides privacy where needed, while perforations become more prevalent up high to expand view corridors and facilitate a sense of openness. Screen frames slide open or closed as programmed (or as users direct via their iPads).
Shutters and motorized draperies open and close according to external sun, shade and weather patterns to ensure optimum efficiency, comfort and desired levels of privacy. Interior spaces are designed to be transformable. Electro-chromic glass walls (known as ‘smart glass’) optimize the home’s passive solar capabilities, allowing enough light in to keep the temperature comfortable. A window-tinting function is executed to block scorching summer sun when the temperatures get too warm - or to lighten in a way that encourages passive solar to warm the home when necessary. All lumenHAUS materials were selected for integrity, beauty and sustainability.
Space-saving techniques allow for clever internal reconfigurations to accommodate life’s tasks, and the square footage of this compact, easily-transportable home can be quickly tripled to exploit inviting sunshine after a seasonal storm.
Wheeler says the team did its homework in forging its design plan. “This is a group of undergrads who traveled across the country to harvest the keenest minds in structural engineering, modular home building, flooring, lighting, heating, energy and modular home design they could find,” he said.
“We wanted to stress that you can have a sustainable, energy-efficient home of the future that doesn’t have to look like an armadillo. Our philosophy is simple: if it doesn’t add value to the quality of life of the people who are looking to buy them and live in them, it’s worthless,” he said.
The intrinsic value of lumenHAUS – and its ingenious energy and space management solutions – are creating buzz the world over.
Solar Decathlon Europe is an international U.S. Dept. of Energy-sponsored competition that challenges teams representing the world’s keenest minds to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and efficiency.
The engineers at Virginia Tech beat 16 other university teams world-wide to win the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe, held June 18-27 in Madrid, Spain. LumenHAUS was one of two U.S. projects that competed.
The lumenHAUS was designed to be easily expanded for growing families – and easily transported, which has facilitated its being on display at the National Mall in Washington, DC, at Times Square in New York City and, of course, for the ten-day Solar Decathlon competition in Madrid, Spain in June of 2010. Sanyo recently helped the well-traveled lumenHAUS make a 5-state trek to Chicago’s Millennium Park for the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild conference.
“We’re proposing a solution to a big problem we see in America,” Wheeler continued. “There’s nothing we’re going to be able to do to prevent sprawl, but if we can propose neighborhoods with solar-powered, energy-efficient housing and make efficient use of the surrounding terrain, we haven’t sacrificed on quality of life, we’ve improved it.”
Added Wheeler: “We want the public to visit this home and realize, ‘This is what it’s like to live under solar. I can do this. This is great!’”