Solar Decathlon 2011: Florida International University, perFORM[D]ance House

[Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing coverage of Solar Decathlon entries leading up to the event’s kick off on Sept. 23.]

Florida International University is seeking to bring the outdoors in, and vice versa, with its entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, a house designed to exist and interact with a tropical landscape. The perFORM[D]ance House‘s concept is connecting its residents and visitors with the outside world by way of integrated landscape design, a layered façade and panels that can open rooms to the outdoors, expanding the living space and providing a dose of fresh air, and can be adjusted for shade, protection and privacy needs. Made for tropical locales like Florida, the house features openable walls and a flat roof. A reflective white exterior serves to keep the house cool.

In addition to the panels as a means of interaction with the elements, the perFORM[D]ance House also features retractable glazing surfaces on the windows that can either let in heat and light, or protect occupants from the thick South Florida humidity. Landscaping features include a garden and a biofiltration pond. The roof collects storm water that is then treated in beds by way of native plants that filter out sediment and provide more oxygen to the water. Water collection also reduces runoff, which can be damaging to land and structures.

Image via Florida International University

The house features many passive technologies that contribute to its sustainability, like natural cross-ventilation, canopy shading, and use of daylight for interior lighting to reduce the need for artificial or mechanical means of lighting and cooling. Also contributing to the house’s dedication to use nature, rather than technology, for living comfort and sustainability are an array of sensors, timers and remote controls that help the house have an automated system. The house also allows residents to monitor their energy use, making them active participants in their home’s activity. They can see the performance of solar panels and check the use and production of energy as well as their water consumption

The perFORM[D]ance House will ultimately be installed on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus of Florida International University in Miami, serving as a visitor pavillion for the university and will support the Office of Sustainability by providing education about renewable energy and environmentally-conscious building practices.

Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.