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Energy-Efficient Windows Installed at Solar Decathlon House

The house being built on Old Dominion University's campus by the team entered in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon is getting closer to completion every day. This week's addition? Super energy-efficient windows.

Team Tidewater, an alliance of engineering students from ODU and architecture students from Hampton University, is one of 20 finalist teams from around the world that will compete in the Solar Decathlon finals this fall in Washington, D.C.

Unit 6 Unplugged, the team's design, is envisioned as a multi-use urban infill dwelling that meets the Solar Decathlon's net-zero energy requirements.

A major factor in the energy efficiency of Unit 6 Unplugged is the windows, which are being provided in part through a gift by Henselstone Window and Door Systems, a manufacturer based in Warrenton, Va.

The first of the windows arrived Wednesday, June 22. Jodi Knorowski, an ODU environmental engineering master's student who is the lead construction engineer for Team Tidewater, showed visitors how the windows will benefit the house in the quest for net-zero energy use, by both deflecting and trapping heat, and by being movable so the front portion of the home can convert into a patio.

Depending on which side of the house the windows are on, they have either a double- or triple-pane design, serving the different insulating functions.

"For the three windows on the southern exposure we used a double-paned glass, because in the colder months when the sun is low, we want to get as much heat into the house as we can through them. All the others are triple pane so we don't lose the heat," explained HU's Jordan Smith, lead student architect for Team Tidewater.

The windows, which were designed by Henselstone Window and Door Systems, have a unique design and can open in two directions, thanks to hinges on the bottom. Henselstone vice president Ruediger Eder said the company was eager to apply its innovation to Team Tidewater's Solar Decathlon entry, because it sees some of the same ingenuity in the ODU and HU students.

"This is a very smart design. And in the summer they use the solar room as a porch so the window is basically opened," Eder said. The windows on the front of the house have two air spaces filled with argon gas to help with insulation, he added.

Construction work on the Team Tidewater house will continue at its current site across from the Student Recreation Center until early August. Then it will be disassembled and trucked in pieces to Washington, where it will be reassembled on the Solar Decathlon competition site.

During the weeklong event (Sept. 23 to Oct. 2), thousands of tourists, architects and engineers are expected to visit Unit 6 Unplugged, along with a panel of experts who will judge all of the homes in 10 categories (hence the name "Solar Decathlon").

Unit 6 Unplugged is envisioned as part of a six-unit, multifamily infill building for a central-city site, with energy efficiency features such as a deep, shaded balcony that incorporates operable windows so it can be converted into a sun space in cold weather; super-tight insulation; and solar thermal and electric power collection systems.

This article was posted on: June 17, 2011

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