Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is making strides in considering how design and technology can work together at a higher volume scale to bring higher quality, more affordable housing to more people. And, their solution won the Solar Decathlon.

Joseph Wheeler and his team of students and faculty from Virginia Tech University are convinced they are building the house of the future.

Judges at the recent Solar Decathlon Middle East agreed, awarding their future house first place in the December competition held in Dubai.

“We set it up in two days,” Wheeler told VOA. “All the other teams took the full two weeks of construction. Ours was set up in two days, generating power on the third day by the sun.”

The quick assembly time is just one thing that makes this home special. All of, literally all of it, comes in modules that are put together on-site into a fully functioning plug-and-play house.

Quick to assemble

“Our typical cartridge is 3-feet wide and about 12-feet long and no higher than 10-feet tall,” Wheeler said. “That cartridge contains the structure of the house. It’s got the structural walls, the insulation in it. But it’s got all the plumbing and the electrical system pre-installed — even the cabinetry, even the finishes. It is an incredibly high-tech home. In this case, well over a $1 million home but highly sophisticated.”

The home is fully wired, a test bed for everything digital. The home is also energy positive, which means — thanks to solar cells — it produces more energy than it consumes. This while being fully functional in the Dubai desert.

“You had to maintain a certain temperature range in the home. You had to keep all your appliances working and run them nonstop for an entire two weeks,” Wheeler said. “You had to charge an electric car from the excess power you generated in the house. You had to do laundry. You had to do dishes. I mean, you had to do all these things.”

They did it, and won.

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