Solar Decathlon 2011: University of Tennessee, Living Light

[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.]

Inspired by the building tradition of the Appalachian region, the University of Tennessee designed Living Light for the 2011 Solar Decathlon, a sleek home that is adaptable to a variety of climates and circumstances, and uses. Living Light uses both passive and active systems, and commonplace technologies in new ways to better meet the needs of consumers. The house is marketed to young professionals with an annual income of about $100,000, specifically those working in Nashville, Tennessee. To attract those working in science and design fields, the technical systems in Living Light are not hidden but incorporated into the house’s design, all while honoring the region’s historical building tradition.

Living Light is reminiscent of a loft and lets in plenty of natural light through its transparent and translucent facade, which comes equipped with blinds for privacy, and color-changing LED strip lights. Sensors around the home manage lighting for energy conservancy, while an automation system can be programmed to preferred settings based on activities–for example, lighting and temperature can change depending on whether the residents are having a party or spending a romantic evening in.

Image via University of Tennessee

The PV array of Living Light is not composed of flat panels, but rather of cylindrical modules that capture light across their 360° surface. An energy recovery ventilator collects air through the house’s facade and serves as a passive strategy for providing cool or warm air to the house’s interior. The blinds are not hung in the windows but rather integrated into them, layered between two panes of glass, and is programmed to provide both light and shade throughout the year–and as an added bonus, they never need to be dusted.

Image via University of Tennessee

After the Decathlon, Living Light will be making a tour of Tennessee, providing energy efficiency education and demonstrations to the public. When the tour is completed the team and their collaborators will use the house as a laboratory, and the information gathered there will contribute to activity within the university, as well as with regional manufacturers and research partners.

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.

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