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Green Profit and Promise: Novel Concepts Win Top ‘Design to Zero’ Accolades

Thursday, February 9, 2012

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Working from home is far from a rarity in this day and age, but a student design team from South Carolina has given a new, highly sustainable and potentially profitable twist to the work-at-home lifestyle choice.

Under the Live/Work roof, residents have the opportunity to run a small business, lease space to a retailer, or let the Homeowners Association be the landlord.

The design team—Clemson University graduate students Eric Laine and Suzanne Steelman—have won acclaim for Live/Work, a residential design concept that combines commercial and residential functionalities. The concept captured the first-place award, carrying a $20,000 prize, in The Dow Chemical Company’s international Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition.

Daniel Kim and Caitlin Ranson, also from the Clemson University School of Architecture, took the second-place, $10,000 prize for their design, Project Zero, and the third-place, $5,000 prize went to Canada’s Leon Lai and Eric Tan, for the Silo House.

The Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition was developed as an innovative, interactive and collaborative team competition among undergrad and graduate students from around the world. The company launched the design competition in August 2011, and received 131 entries from 19 countries. The final 32 teams were announced in December 2011 and included designs from the U.S., Canada, China, Spain, Korea, France, and Australia.

 Project Zero
The Project Zero design delivers an “elegant, energy-efficient house that pays tribute to great 20th century modernism.”

The competition winners were determined by a peer-review process that allowed all contestants to vote. The winners were announced at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla.


Laine and Steelman’s Live/Work project “embraces its urban setting both architecturally and economically, adapting its energy systems to the regional environment and integrating those systems seamlessly into the aesthetic design of the building,” Dow said in announcing the top prize-winning design.

Under the Live/Work roof, residents have the opportunity to run a small business, lease space to a retailer, or let the Homeowners Association be the landlord. The retail space could be a market, gallery or even a bike shop. The profit of the retail space directly benefits those who occupy the housing units above. This is a marketable solution for the urban environment of Athens, Ga. that will encourage a sustainable means of living, the design team says.

“The combination of live and work spaces is a sustainable approach,” the design team says in its plan for Live/Work. “The average person splits their life between work and home. This organization has the benefit of cutting out daily transportation to and from work. Activity within the space is constant; the building is never dormant. Being occupied 24 hours a day makes the live/work's goal of 100% efficiency achievable.”

The “site context” for Live/Work, Athens, Ga., serves as an optimal setting for the design, with its diverse cultural mix and designation as a “bike-friendly community.” The structure’s green/sustainable features include solar PV arrays, gray-water collection for non-potable uses, vegetation “walls” that alternately block UV radiation (summer) or allow solar heating (winter), low-e glass, fly-ash-content concrete, Nu-Wool insulation, and weather-tight glazing.

Elegant and Efficient, with a Nod to Modernism

The Kim and Ranson team’s Project Zero design employs concrete masonry units to create an “elegant, energy-efficient house that pays tribute to great 20th century modernism.” The home also incorporates multiple zones that decrease the cost and the energy footprint while keeping an eye on design.

 Silo House
Silo House’s novel proposition—the transformation of decommissioned oil-refinery silos into highly efficient, sustainable dwellings.

The Project Zero submission offers highly detailed drawings of an advanced building-envelope assembly that combines extensive energy-efficient and sustainable components and functions, including solar PV panels, rainwater-collection system, and insulation/vapor-barrier assemblies, among others. Also detailed is a green-roof system that provides a balcony/courtyard space.

Silo House’s Green Bounty

The Lai and Tan Silo House team submits an amazingly novel, almost startling proposition—the decontamination and transport of abandoned oil-refinery silos to a residential housing site; see Silo House reconstruction. The silos are transformed into highly efficient, sustainable dwellings that “strive to go beyond carbon neutral to actually benefit the environment” through their existence.

Silo House’s “green” features include rainwater collection, reuse of gray water, solar-energy generation, and efficient heat distribution facilitated by the inherent spherical shape of the silo. The sphere, in fact, gets credit for several contributions to the sustainability package, including maximization of solar-energy collection; passive cooling and natural ventilation thanks to the “dome effect”; and water-shedding and waterproofing properties. (See Silo Home Design Features.)

“The students’ designs are perfect examples of the innovative thinking that is needed to create sustainable and energy efficient housing both now and for the future,” said Pat Nugent, director of new business development, Dow Solar.

Right Behind the Winners…

In addition to the final three winners, Dow Solar announced four honorable-mention teams.

• Tongji Team 2 from China created an energy efficient dwelling designed with the Chinese farmer in mind.

• Team Partial Submersion from the U.S. sank the building in order to protect it from the heat and cold of the climate.

• VegaSol, from the U.S., integrated passive and active solar systems into its energy strategy, but the structure’s ability to respond to the Las Vegas environment “set this team apart,” Dow Solar said.

• From Spain, Liquid Arquitectura created a stunning example of urban architecture that secured them an honorable mention.

Prior to the International Builders Show, Dow Solar announced four ancillary Design to Zero award winners.

• Team Below Zero, U.S., captured the Built-in Photovoltaic Design Award for creating a house with optimal solar angles.

• The Design Integration Award went to team BreathZERO, U.S., for its integration of space, materials and technology to achieve a serene and environmentally sound solution.

• Energy Efficiency Winner 33° South, Australia, was cited as an example of following “the right track to help reduce our energy consumption and carbon footprint.”

• From China, MIF Studio’s seamless integration of the ornamental with the practical won the Innovation Award.

More information on the Dow Design to Zero competition, or to view all the student design submissions: www.designtozero.com.


Tagged categories: Dow Chemical Company; Green building; Solar; Solar energy; Sustainability

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