French Kings, Solar Power and Sustainability

Louis XIV is not a frequent reference point in today’s discussions about the world’s energy and sustainability paths. However, this longest ruling French monarch (1643-1715) was known as the “Sun King” as he often referred to himself as the center of the universe and was enamored of the sun itself. He also was the builder of Versailles, the construction of which was viewed as very innovative for its day with gardens and roads that Louis XIV arrayed in a pattern to track the sun’s movements.

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

With this in mind, it is not such a stretch to understand why the organizers of the 2014 International Solar Decathlon chose the Versailles grounds in which to hold this extraordinary exhibition, from which I have recently returned. The 15-day exhibition featured more than 20 universities from around the world, with Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design and Appalachian State University as the two U.S. competitors.

During each day of the competition, the entrants were subjected to judges’ inspection to assess performance in categories, such as architecture, communications (ability to literally tell their house’s story to press and visitors), energy efficiency, engineering and construction, and sustainability.

PIMA’s sponsorship of Appalachian State and the providing of polyiso insulation by Atlas Roofing to ASU demonstrated the role high-performance insulation plays in the future of the built environment.

However, it is not individual product performance that most impresses the visitor to these extraordinary homes. Yes, they all make exceptional use of the solar power generated by their installed PV systems (they are limited by the rules to only 5 kWh of electricity production from which they must run refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers) and each home has an array of innovative products. But it is the synergistic result of the products’ application combined with the unbelievable ingenuity of the students and professors that excited me the most.

2014 International Solar Decathlon PHOTO: SDEurope

The “decathletes” at the 2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

Some buildings were representative of new construction. For example, the ASU entrant was a modular townhome with the potential to assemble into a collective urban building.

In addition, recognizing that existing buildings are the greatest energy challenge, the effort to improve our world’s retrofit capabilities truly caught my eye. For example, the Berlin Rooftop Project focuses on abandoned rooftop space in that city to create studios for younger urban dwellers, while the Dutch (Delft University) addressed the poorly insulated townhomes that make up over 60 percent of Dutch homes by applying a “second skin” while including a garden capability within the home.

The several days I spent at the event were educational, but nothing was more inspiring than speaking with the students themselves. Be they from Chile, France, Germany, Japan, the United States or any of the other countries involved, their passion was compelling. The intellect and commitment of these future architects, engineers, designers and urban planners to finding sustainable solutions for the planet gives me a distinct optimism for our future.

PIMA Sponsors Appalachian State Solar Decathlon Europe Entry

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced that it has signed on as a Kilowatt Level sponsor of Appalachian State University‘s entry to the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014.

Appalachian State University (Appalachian) is one of only three U.S. universities selected to participate in the prestigious Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, an international competition inspired by the U.S. Solar Decathlon that challenges student teams to design and build an energy-independent solar house. Twenty projects were selected for the competition out of a total of 44 candidacies from 23 countries.

“Using effective and accessible products in Maison Reciprocity such as polyiso, allows our team to dramatically improve upon the beloved row house typology without radically changing the norm in terms of products and systems,” says Appalachian State University Graduate Construction Manager, Scott Hopkins. “With a continuous layer of polyiso wrapping the building envelope, we can let more natural daylight into a traditionally long, narrow row house without sacrificing thermal performance.”

Appalachian is partnering with the University of Angers in Angers, France. The collaboration, dubbed Team Réciprocité, will present their energy plus house design, Maison Reciprocity, in Versailles from June 27 through July 14, 2014.

Team Réciprocité is committed to utilizing affordable solutions and practical, technological alternatives, such as polyiso insulation, to ensure that Maison Reciprocity remains highly sustainable throughout its life cycle. Using cross-laminated timber (CLT) as its primary structural system, Maison Reciprocity will be designed in modular, panelized components that may be flat-packed for easy transport and shipping.

“Maison Reciprocity will feature the latest in building systems technology as well as incorporate one of the most energy efficient insulation products available today, polyiso,” says Jared O. Blum, president of PIMA. “With the highest R-value per inch of any insulation product, and the only on that is third party certified, polyiso will be a critical component in this Solar Decathlon Europe entry.

“Our sponsorship underscores the polyiso industry’s commitment to net zero energy buildings – where the future of construction lies,” adds Blum.

Maison Reciprocity will be scalable to fit the needs of different sites, communities and owners while remaining energy independent. The final product will be a re-imagined row house, consisting of multiple stories and units.

“Using effective and accessible products in Maison Reciprocity such as polyiso, allows our team to dramatically improve upon the beloved row house typology without radically changing the norm in terms of products and systems,” says Scott Hopkins, graduate construction manager for Maison Reciprocity. “With a continuous layer of polyiso wrapping the building envelope, we can let in more natural daylight into a traditionally long, narrow row house without sacrificing thermal performance.”

PIMA member Atlas Roofing Company is also a sponsor of Team Réciprocité’s entry, Maison Reciprocity. Atlas Rboard is the main insulation throughout the house with four inches of Atlas Rboard polyiso being used as continuous insulation over CLT and stick frame walls.

The Solar Decathlon Europe will be will take place in France, neighboring the spectacular Château de Versailles June 27 to July 14, 2014.