Solar Decathlon: The Olympics of Green building design

Competition. It is not just another word in India. It is a way of live, embedded in our collective consciousness, be it something as major as a job interview or as simple as standing at the head of a queue while at the movies. And things are no different when it comes to the question of housing in major Indian cities. With the number of urban middle class houses expected to increase from 22 million today to 91 million in 2030, there is a pressing need to design and build homes that are comfortable, cost-effective and sustainable.

This is the challenge that has been up by Team Shunya, a collaboration of Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture and IIT Bombay- to build a sustainable, cost-effective, solar-powered house for the Indian middle class in urban areas.

Team Shunya is one of the 20 international teams selected for the prestigious Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in France. The Solar Decathlon was started as a biennial event by the US Department of Energy in 2002 and has since expanded to Europe and China. Collegiate teams from across the world are invited to design, construct and demonstrate full-scale houses powered entirely by solar energy, complete with all amenities from a dish washer to a building automation system. The houses are judged on 10 extensive criteria including architecture, electrical energy balance, comfort and innovation.  In the 18 month-long designing process, the teams interact with various industry leaders and conduct a multitude of events to raise awareness about renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The teams will construct the houses on their own premises, disassemble them and transport them to France where the final phase of the competition, a two-week exhibition typically with more than 200,000 visitors, will take place. The site for the 2014 SDE is in the grounds of the monumental Palace of Versailles, featuring 41 universities from 16 nations.

IIT Bombay and Academy of Architecture joined hands in November 2012 to form an interdisciplinary teams of architects and engineers working hand-in-hand to find the perfect synergy for our house. The team, named Shunya to reiterate the goal of a zero-energy house, became the first team from India to ever be selected in the Solar Decathlon, whose previous participants include MIT, Purdue, Cornell, CMU, TU Darmstadt among others. It consists of over 70 students and has received constant involvement and support from faculty and authorities of both institutes. Since its selection, Team Shunya has made significant progress in its design and engineering activities and is currently working on several architectural and engineering innovations.

The construction of the house is expected to begin in October 2013. The final competition is scheduled in June-July 2014.

Links: (2012 website)

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