19 university teams from across the world are gearing up to make their way to Washington D.C. for the Solar Decathlon. Entitled CHIP (short for Compacted Hyper-Insulated Prototype) the residence’s geometry is designed to respond to the sun’s orientation while wrapped in a sun performative envelope.

Design Team : Students from SCI-Arch and Cal Tech.

CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 1
CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 1

While all 19 entries into the competition certainly redefine the aesthetic of a residence, SCI-Arch and CalTech’s seems to take it a step further. At first glance, one is simply intrigued by the puffy material wrapping the geometric form; and yet, of course, the look functions beyond a mere aesthetic shock value. Constructed using low-cost billboard material fastened with zip ties, dowel rods, and lag screws, this vinyl-coated fabric mesh “turns conventional wisdom on its head, wearing its thermal performance on its sleeve.”

CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 2
CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 2

By separating the structural members from the insulation layer, and wrapping the insulation assembly in a flexible vinyl membrane, CHIP’s exterior envelope has an extremely high R-values necessary for a Net-Zero house, at a significantly reduced cost, all the while indexing this performance in its physical appearance.

CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 4
CHIP SCI Arch + CalTech _ Solar Decathlon 2011 4

In terms of massing, the form is tweaked and shaped to find the balance between an optimal roof angle for year-round solar energy collection, and a comfortable, vaulted interior space with a minimal footprint. On the interior, the slight change in level divides the house spatially without compartmentalizing.

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