One challenge the team faced when building the concrete panels was fulfilling the stipulation that the building solutions had to be front loaded and integrated into the precast sandwich panels by the students. Professionally, a fabricator would design the shop drawings, including a layout of the house systems such as plumbing, electrical and fumigation. But since Northeast Precast was donating its time and services, the students were left to integrate the building systems. They even built-in radiance flooring in the floor panels and the panel roof was inverted at an angle to prevent the summer sun from hitting the floor.
Jen Switala, a recent master’s graduate from NJIT and the student leader for Team New Jersey, says that the significance of using precast concrete in the house design will make more people aware of what sustainable really means. “The housing industry feels that what it means to be sustainable is to put solar panels on the house and use green materials. I would like to see the housing industry move is to make the whole house sustainable,” she says.
Garber agrees, “There’s still a trend in America to keep up with the suburban single-family home. However, more countries around the world are more intelligent to these kinds of designs and are looking for an accepted and desired solution for housing. There is more sway of public mindset that needs to happen and we think our little house will be a part of that,” he adds. “I actually think that this kind of home material science is going to develop so quickly that it will beg consideration in building products. I would like to see more cost-effective, maintenance free and energy efficient technology in U.S. houses. Not to mention I think it looks cooler.”
Team New Jersey will ship their entry to Washington, D.C. to display on the National Mall from September 23 – October 2, 2011. They expect that their design, which also includes a solar panel roof and water runoff to recycle rain water, to be very competitive in the Solar Decathlon.