Virginia Tech Lumenhaus kindles solar possibilities

June 27, 2010 update: Virginia Tech’s Lumenhaus has won the overall competition at the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe. See images of its transport to Spain and the exhibition

Jan. 29, 2010 update: Students and faculty from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Engineering brought the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus to Duffy Square in Times Square, New York City on Jan. 26.

   

Three Virginia Tech students are featured in a rotating ad on the large American Eagle screen in Times Square in New York City. The Virginia Tech Lumenhaus is to the left. Three Virginia Tech students are featured in a rotating ad on the large American Eagle screen in Times Square in New York City. Pictured left to right are Chris Taylor of Aldie, Va., fifth-year architecture student; Corey McCalla of Rockville, Va., fifth-year architecture student; and Alden Haley of Glen Allen, Va., fifth-year architecture student The Virginia Tech Lumenhaus is to the left.

The house was on exhibition in Times Square from Jan. 27-28, and it was also featured live on ABC’s Good Morning America. See a video of its arrival in Times Square.

A team of faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students spanning four colleges — the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, the College of Engineering, the Pamplin College of Business, and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences — has created a solar-powered house for the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

   

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu poses with the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus team during his visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu poses with the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus team during his visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8.

From Oct. 4 through Oct 17, 2009, the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where it will compete against 19 other universities to determine which team has designed and built the most efficient, operational solar-powered house to address evolving quality of life issues.
   

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu visited the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus for a tour led by Corey McCalla, a student leader on the project and a fifth-year architecture student from Rockville, Va. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu visited the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus for a tour led by Corey McCalla, a student leader on the project and a fifth-year architecture student from Rockville, Va.

The major phases of the Solar Decathlon Competition include:

  • Research:  Students and faculty investigate all aspects of energy use in daily patterns of living. Interdisciplinary teams develop hundreds of alternatives synthesizing architectural intent with technological innovation.  The theme of Virginia Tech’s solar house is Responsive Architecture and is designed to advance conservation as well as technical innovation.
  • Building: The conceptual phase of the project proceeds through prototype development and testing. Alternatives are explored through full-scale mock-ups, drawings, models, animations, and computer simulations. This planning is validated or challenged through the act of construction. In addition to designing houses that use innovative, high-tech elements in ingenious ways, students work with fabricators, suppliers, consultants, and other professionals in a similar mode to the workplace they will eventually enter.
  •    

    Final preparations are made to the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus on Oct. 7 before the start of the 2009 Solar Decathlon. The structure will be on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. until Oct. 17. Final preparations are made to the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus on Oct. 7 before the start of the 2009 Solar Decathlon. The structure will be on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. until Oct. 17.

  • Corporate Partnerships:  With this fourth Solar Decathlon, the level of expertise and sophistication increases geometrically. Because of its past showings in 2002 and 2005, Virginia Tech is able to attract substantial corporate sponsorship. ConocoPhillips and Siemens are two of the many partners who have contributed cash, in-kind material, and services to enable the university to compete at an international level.
  • Competing: Teams transport their houses to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for three weeks of public viewing and competition. During the competition itself, the teams receive points for their performance in 10 contests.

Virginia Tech is the only university in the commonwealth represented in the U. S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. The teams, which were selected from universities in the United States, Canada, Spain, and Germany, were charged with creating houses that utilize energy-efficient technology and demonstrate that houses powered entirely by the sun do not have to sacrifice all the modern comforts and aesthetics homeowners are accustomed to.

   

The Eclipsis system is an advanced building façade comprising two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel. The system was on display at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., during the 2009 summer. The Eclipsis system is an advanced building façade comprising two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel. The system was on display at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., during the 2009 summer.

Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus website includes a documentary, a video build-up that shows how the house is constructed from the inside out, detailed information about the technologies featured in the house, and a video experience of living in the house.

The road leading to the National Mall

An exhibition about the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus was open at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., June 12 – Aug 23, 2009. The exhibition showcased the house’s Eclipsis system.

The Eclipsis system is an advanced building façade comprising two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel. The shutter shade slides along the north and south façades, providing protection from direct sunlight while simultaneously allowing for indirect, natural lighting, views to the exterior and privacy to those inside. The sliding insulating panel is a translucent polycarbonate panel filled with aerogel. Aerogel is a super lightweight, highly insulating translucent material that provides insulation equivalent to a typical sold wall during harsh weather conditions without blocking natural light.

The Virginia Tech Lumenhaus was on exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Sept. 5-27. The house was displayed on the museum’s west lawn while the team tested the systems and components.

   

Virginia Tech's 2009 Solar Decathlon team poses with their entry at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies' Research and Demonstration Facility, where the initial construction took place. Virginia Tech's 2009 Solar Decathlon team poses with their entry at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies' Research and Demonstration Facility, where the initial construction took place.

The next stop

Virginia Tech is one of only two U.S. universities invited to compete in the first Solar Decathlon Europe, which will take place in Madrid in June 2010. The Solar Decathlon Europe competition is modeled on the biennial U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Meet the team

Lead faculty

  • Joseph Wheeler, associate professor of architecture
  • Robert Dunay, the T. A. Carter Professor of Architecture
  • Andrew McCoy, assistant professor of building construction
  • Robert Schubert, associate dean of research
  • D.B. Clark, adjunct faculty

Student leaders

  • Alden Haley of Glen Allen, Va., fifth-year architecture student
  • Corey McCalla of Rockville, Va., fifth-year architecture student
  • Casey Reeve of Shelter Island Heights, N.Y., fourth-year industrial design student
  • Brian Zaremski of Manasas, Va., electrical engineering graduate student
  • See the entire list of team members

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