DALE, short for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment, is this year's U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon entry for the SCI-Arc/Caltech team. Made of two movable, prefabricated modules that open to allow the outdoors in, DALE celebrates the active California lifestyle through its dynamic architecture.
DALE learns from two classic California precedents: the super-sized suburban tract home and the compact, sufficient bungalow; amending one and expanding on the other to become a new Southern California typology. At 600 square feet, it is a micro house with an unprecedented flexible interior that results in the program of a house three times the size.
Architecture & Engineering
Its two independent modules sit on a rail system that provides the option to expand and contract the home in order to react to climate changes, as well as take into account lifestyle needs. When the modules are spaced apart, a mid-yard is created that expands the living space and allows occupants to take advantage of California’s sublime climate. DALE’s sliding overhangs allow for additional configurations providing shading and privacy where needed. When an expansive living space is not needed, or when the night climate becomes cold, DALE’s modules come together, seal and require minimal energy to power the home, maximizing efficiency with a small footprint.
By moving along its rail system and opening up to nature, DALE expands into the environment, being at the same time small and spacious, and efficient and expansive. Its range of motion for the competition prototype is 54 feet, meaning the home’s square footage can grow from 600 to nearly 1,800 feet. In the real world, beyond the decathlon competition, the home can exist either on a standard suburban lot, or on a large expanse of land where the system can, in theory, be added to, resulting in much more variation.
The electrical system relies on the use of day lighting and incorporates the use of energy efficient LED lighting, appliances and electronics. A sophisticated home monitoring and automation system meters every aspect of electricity and water consumption in real time allowing the home and user to regulate their behavior.
Net Zero Energy
DALE makes it easy for the inhabitants to save energy. The home control system iPad app monitors energy usage and helps the homeowner understand where energy is being used. The app also offers encouragement and suggestions on how to run DALE more efficiently. For example, when it's warm and sunny outside, the app might suggest that the homeowner open DALE up and turn off the A/C.
Zero net energy (ZNE) buildings are good for the environment, and the wallet; so to encourage green building practices, the California Energy Commission has set some lofty goals. By 2020, all new residential construction will be ZNE, and by 2030, all new commercial construction will be ZNE. As ZNE home in 2013, DALE sets a precedent.
Follow our continuing coverage of the 2013 Solar Decathlon.