SolarWorld solar blog

ASU-UNM Solar team Part 1: Evolving SHADE

Posted 5/7/2013 by John Cribbs, Architectural project manager for the ASU-UNM Solar Decathlon team

I’d like to say that designing SHADE has been an easy ride thus far. Only that’s not true. Quite far from it … What it has been, though, is an intense learning experience. An experience that I am more than excited to take with me for the rest of my career. It is one that has prepared me for the reality of the design/build field and has touched on all aspects of design.

What’s new with team ASUNM? Simple … another structural change based on practicality and constructability… My fault for not inquiring last June. Being naive may have been my only cop-out at that point. Wood structure and a crane seemed simple enough but we neglected to fully understand deflection, tension, weight, and finish work with this type of delivery - not ideal for a "90 percent out the door" modular delivery. It was new to us. It was new to me. I should have asked more questions. It's no longer as simple as I expected and I aim to change that.

Nothing we can’t handle as a team, though. New delivery method … No problem. Hit the drawing boards again to understand the new system.

The project’s pace has increased dramatically and tension is high (with a few of us anyway). SHADE is quickly becoming a reality. Construction has begun and lead times for materials are getting shorter by the day. The chassis are complete, and the columns are up. We are preparing for the framer to begin his work next week. Our attention to detail is of utmost importance at this stage in the game. Sleepless nights, stressful days, and the “subtle” accumulation of grey hair by the day have become routine.

Initial framing of the SHADE home, which will be constructed and shipped in sections to the Orange County Great Park
Initial framing of the SHADE home, which will be constructed and shipped in sections to the Orange County Great Park

All worth it when you get to see an idea become reality!

The solar canopy is next. A billboard for our stance on solar: Proud … Committed … Beautiful.

By liberating the solar panels from the roof and placing them on a secondary canopy structure, in front of the house, above the patio space, we’ve created a unique phenomenon I like to call: Shade Energy. One foot of solar = one foot of shade. A simple manipulation of standard solar panel placement creates a comfortable outdoor living space year-round (while harnessing the power of the sun). Nothing like having your cake and eating it too!

Initial framing of the SHADE home, which will be constructed and shipped in sections to the Orange County Great Park
Panarama view of the SHADE home

We have become a tight-knit group. A team of interdisciplinary students who rely on each other’s “building” expertise (pun intended) to execute an extremely unique project (unique being an understatement).

Communication with our counterparts and sponsors has been ramped up ten-fold the last couple of weeks. As we construct, we are designing. As we design, we are constructing. A top-down design meeting a bottom-up construction process is quite a challenge. One that I look forward to every day. A design challenge (opportunity, if you will) presents itself daily, as many materials and components have been ordered, or are already in fabrication. Paying attention to proposed design changes and the affects they may have on the fabrication of processed components is always on my mind. The expression details, details, details has never been more relevant. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help the grey hair situation at all, either.

All in all, a strong concept, a competent team, and outside expertise have allowed this project to progress to the point it’s at. We have been fortunate enough to gain support through sponsorships and industry professionals. I am excited to continue moving forward and seeing this design become even more of a reality than now!

John Cribbs, 25, from Valparaiso, Ind. John is finishing his master of architecture degree program at ASU.
John Cribbs, 25, from Valparaiso, Ind. John is finishing his master of architecture degree program at ASU

I can’t wait to relax on the front porch, under the solar canopy, surrounded by a desert landscape! Nothing like living and breathing a design on paper and a computer screen and then being able to actually inhabit it. Seeing the interior of the home extend itself to the outdoors, under protection of the solar canopy, utilizing Shade Energy will be special.

That’s the closure I’ll need at the end of this project! Then it will have been a success!

Read part 2 of the blog.

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