Lightweight Solar-Powered House Concept Gains Recognition

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SunBloc, a collaborative project by a team of students from London Metropolitan University, received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA...


SunBloc, a collaborative project by a team of students from London Metropolitan University, received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Silver Medal for best post-graduate design work.

The project consisted of a lightweight and heavily-insulated prototype house (made up of foam blocks and steel cables), designed to produce more electricity than it consumes on an annual basis. Ten students spent the last year developing the dwelling in response to the housing crisis. It's designed to occupy inner-city rooftops and other leftover urban sites.

The simple concept was driven by a variety of factors: cheap construction, light weight, flexibility, low cost and low environmental impact.

"The idea was to make it as easy as possible," Jonas Lundberg, working in the diploma school's Unit 4, HelioMet, told the Guardian. "The blocks can fit in a lift and be cut with a template, with both parts used to avoid wastage, and assembled with unskilled labor."

Although houses had been made from foam decades prior, issues with high insullations and low thermal mass resulted in a very humid indoor climate. The students solved that problem using an interior coating to absorb moisture in the air, with phase change wax granules that help maintain the internal temperature.

The integration of a large Southern porch allow for solar gain, adequate day light is provided mostly by the small corner windows, having strategically placed high-level openings and the roof is covered by a large PV array.

Sparked by the Solar Decathlon, a global competition established by the US Department of Energy, universities have risen to the challenge to develop sustainable housing using just solar energy. The SunBloc can be adapted to multiple scenarios, is relatively inexpensive in terms of material and can be assembled by a small crew of unskilled workers.

Read More in Energy Digital's November Issue




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