October 30, 2005

Solar Engineering at the Rhode Island School of Design

Carroll Andrew Morse

Does hearing the name Rhode Island School of Design make you think about cutting edge technology? Well, it probably should.

Last month, a team from RISD was one of 18 teams who participated at the Solar Decathlon on the mall in Washington D.C. Teams from 18 different universities built solar-powered houses -- yes, entire houses. The RISD team designed and constructed an 800 square-foot urban dwelling…

Intended as an urban dwelling that will work well as a row house, the team says it elicits adjectives such as "loft-like," "pure," "free-space," and "transformative," or just "very cool."
To make maximal use of space, the RISD design includes a garden on the roof
In an urban environment, where space is a premium and a yard almost unheard of, a roof garden brings tranquility and a sense of place to the house. The garden will have a series of planter boxes in which we will grow vegetables and herbs, as well as shade plants. This again reduces the solar load on the building and insulates the roof.
Not only is the house completely solar powered, but it is also provides power to an electric car…
Our entry takes the emerging practice of sustainable architecture to another level as the house will not only power itself, but will actually produce an excess of energy (used to power RISD's new electric car) with zero toxic emissions. We will not burn a single drop of fossil fuel to heat and cool the space.
The days when fossil fuels will be replaced by alternative sources of energy are closer than you think; they are that much closer because of the efforts of people like the RISD Solar Decathlon Team.