Washington University Competes in the DoE Solar Decathlon 2017

Guest Post by the Washington University Solar Decathlon Team

The Washington University team has collaborated with leading industry partners to overcome unique challenges in designing the concrete residential building. The CRETE house footings, walls, floor, and ceiling are all made out of pre-cast concrete. The walls consist of sandwich panels- structural concrete on the interior, insulation in the middle, and UHPC (Ultra High Performance Concrete) on the exterior. Although construction of CRETE House is currently taking place on the North campus of Washington University, it will be disassembled and shipped to Denver, Colorado where the team will put it back together in time for the Solar Decathlon competition. Therefore, modularity was integral to design. All the systems – mechanical, electrical, and plumbing – are directly attached to a steel “core” that sits in the center of the building. The entire house can be erected in under a week.

Additionally, CRETE House is not designed to use a traditional HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system; instead, tubing in the floors and ceiling carry cool or warm water, to adjust the interior temperature. Due to the concrete’s thermal mass, the house can act as a thermal battery and cut down on heating/cooling costs. A solar array is fixed to the roof and generates all of the daily electrical needs. This level of systems and architecture integration is often only seen in multi-million dollar buildings.

The innovative design of CRETE House has provided an opportunity to tackle one of the most important challenges for sustainable construction – CO2 emissions. Preliminary calculations show that CRETE House saves significant CO2 emissions over the life cycle of the house, despite the higher carbon emissions to produce the structural materials. A large chunk of these CO2 savings come from the increased lifespan of concrete, indoor environment regulation system, and reduced maintenance.

CRETE House, as well as 13 other innovative houses, will be on display in Denver, Colorado from October 5-15th, 2017. The Solar Decathlon is open to the public and all are welcome to visit. The house will be permanently installed at the Tyson Research Center for visiting scientists, during the winter of 2017-2018.

Crete House

To track the progress of Team WashU and CRETE House, follow them on their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.

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