Designed by students at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), a house powered by both the sun and hydrogen has been challenging conventional wisdom on solar construction. The “Green Machine/Blue Space” is designed to produce heat and electricity for its inhabitants in way that is reliable, self-sufficient, and, of course, free of greenhouse-gas emissions.
“We brought together a panel of professors to review the proposals and very quickly realized we had come up with a truly innovative and somewhat risky option,” says Michele Bertomen, associate professor of architecture at NYIT. “Instead of proposing the traditional use of batteries to convert and store solar power, our students suggested using hydrogen fuel cells, which are nonpolluting and absolutely guarantee that our solar house will be self-sufficient.”
Electricity supplied from the home’s roof-mounted photovoltaic panels (the large, glass panels that are a common feature in solar design) run an electrolysis converter to separate hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then stored to produce heat and electricity as needed.
The “Green Machine/Blue Space” design consists of two principal structures. The “green” module contains the home’s mechanical components as well as the primary utilities-the kitchen and bathroom. The “blue space” is for habitation-sleeping, relaxing, working with a computer, and other activities that use relatively little heat or electricity. This spatial arrangement allows for greater energy efficiency by reducing heat transference. Green Machine/ Blue Space will compete in the international 2005 Solar Decathlon Competition to be held in Washington, D.C., from September 29 to October 19.
The Solar Decathlon is a competition in which 18 colleges from the United States, Europe, and Canada design, build, and operate solar-powered houses. The competition is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, along with the American Institute of Architects, the National Association of Homebuilders, BP, and the DIY Network.
“Consumers are asking for more energy-efficient homes and appliances, and they want practical ways to use renewable energy,” says former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. “This competition demonstrates that we can have comfortable and appealing homes that use only energy from the sun. That’s an important contribution to our nation’s energy security and to our environment.”
Other designs entered into the 2005 competition utilize bath-water recycling technology, prefabricated rooms, and material harvested from demolished buildings to promote principles of ecological design.
“Our Solar Decathletes are tomorrow’s engineers, architects, researchers, business managers, and homeowners,” says Bertomen. “As an educator I can’t think of anything more valuable than supporting their unique vision for living under the sun. Their project is a great example of nature and technology joined together in ways we’ve never before imagined.”
Source: The New York Institute of Technology, Northern Boulevard, Old Westbury, New York 11568. Telephone 1-800-345-6948. Web site http://iris.nyit.edu/solardecathlon. Solar Decathlon Web site www.eere.energy.gov/ solar_decathlon .
Originally published, THE FUTURIST, September-October 2005