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Project RE:FOCUS / University of Florida

We are always excited to see what the Solar Decathlon entries bring to the table.  It is an extremely intense competition, rooted in the belief that highly efficient homes can be sustainable without sacrificing aesthetics or comfort.  Throughout the months spent preparing their final houses, students from some of the best universities in the world strive to fuse technological innovation, sustainability and design into a functional entity.

The competition challenges students to think beyond the systems and strategies that are currently in use, thus, each proposal attempts to find innovative ways to approach the issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The University of Florida’s Project RE:FOCUS combines its Floridian vernacular language with a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to sustainable living.  As such, the 800 sqf house rethinks traditional practices and “hopes to communicate the need to RE:FOCUS how, and in what, we live.”

More about the project and more images, including some great construction shots, after the break.

With an interdisciplinary team totaling over a 125 students from four colleges and eight disciplines, the house is designed using an 8ft by 16ft module for ease of construction and to ensure flexibility, in terms of expanding or contracting based on the needs of the occupant.

A breezeway, which provides cross-ventilation and daylight to the interior, divides the public and private zones of the house.   The main social element of the residence, an L-shaped living room, defines the dining area  and its lighting plan enhances the natural daylighting opportunities.

The bedroom modules can be duplicated to create additional rooms/configurations plus the bathroom utilizes an “open shower” so all of the fixtures were chosen for their ability to withstand a wet environment.

These interior living spaces bleed through to the exterior through the use of similar materials and large glass openings.  A large flexible deck based on the same 8’ module as the house is made from recycled plastic composite material.

All the softwood in the project has undergone acetylation, a new non-chemical process that eliminates free hydroxyls and makes the wood more durable.  The wood is guaranteed to last for 80 years and since softwood grows in a fraction of the time that hardwood does, it “reduces the global strain on our hardwood deforestation.”

The envelope of the house consists of a heavily insulated wall system designed to protect the home from a variety of climate conditions.  Plus, it can be easily adapted to respond to specific climactic conditions. Composed of sustainability forested Accoya wood, the screen provides privacy, acts as a rain screen and provides shading of the house to reduce the solar heat gain on the walls.

As the competition particularly emphasizes solar systems, the UF house combines two solar systems to maximize the amount of energy produced and to increase the positive energy balance.   While the panels on the roof have a tilt of 0 degrees, which allows the house to be in any orientation and still produce the same amount of electricity, the panels on the southern wall are mounted vertically to provide shade and absorb energy simultaneously.   The house generates a grand total of 14,604 Watts.

The proposal incorporates quite a number of sustainable solutions and we wish the team the best of luck during their European début!

Be sure to check out UF’s homepage for more info and updates

Cite:Karen Cilento. "Project RE:FOCUS / University of Florida" 02 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/62779/project-refocus-university-of-florida/>