Solar Decathlon 2011: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Re_home

[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.]

Considering that so many homes are damaged beyond repair by natural disasters in the US and around the world, the team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is bringing the Re_home to the 2011 Solar Decathlon, a house designed for a family who has recently lost their home to a natural disaster. In an emergency situation, the Re_home would be quickly deployed as a sustainable solution to sudden homelessness. The house is designed to be safe and comfortable while still maintaining efficiency and sustainability, and the team hopes that environmental awareness can help ease the trying times that follow disaster. In addition, it is ADA-approved.

Because the Re_home is designed to be transported to affected areas, it was designed as two modular units that can be packed up onto one trailer for quick and easy response. The roof’s PV system can even be installed flat before shipping, and then lifted to the optimal angle at the destination. Inside, the house offers lots of storage and natural light, and efficient LED lighting for when the sun goes down. It also has a room off the central living room that can be used for a variety of purposes, depending on the needs of the occupants.

Image via University of Illinois

In addition to providing power, the PV panels on the roof double as an awning over the southern side of the house to keep put excess heat. The paneling of the exterior is made from 60% bio-material, in this case rice husks, and can be customized by the residents with a selection of finishes. A centrally-located air-source heat pump is an efficient way to heat and cool the two areas of the home, while fans bring in fresh air from outdoors, and energy is recovered through the heat-pump refrigeration cycle. Landscaping is designed to encourage occupants to grow their own food.

Re_home was imagined for a young couple with an infant who lost their home to a tornado, a common occurrence in the mid-western US. The house is meant to be a permanent or at least a long-term solution, and so flexibility of space was a central theme in Re_home’s conception. The team is currently working with the University of Illinois to find the best solution for Re_home. They would like for it to be used for its intended purpose, and would be willing to offer it to a family in need.

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.