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Kiwi bach ingenuity thrust into limelight

Magazine LayoutA group of young architects from Victoria University is set to compete on the world stage against some of the world’s brightest student minds in the US Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon. 

A display of innovation in action, the bi-annual event challenges 20 university teams to produce inventive, zero-energy solutions in solar-powered houses, featuring cost-effective construction incorporating energy-saving appliances and renewable energy systems. In 2009, the competition was viewed by more than 175 million readers through print and online coverage and it provided fodder for more than 730 Magazine Layouttelevision stories US-wide.  

The NZ team won a place in the competition with a unique, solar-powered concept inspired by the “Kiwi Bach”.  Called the First Light House, it takes aspects of kiwi lifestyle, culture, building and heritage and combines them in innovative ways. Simple and open, the pre-fabricated flat-pack student bach will be an affordable, permanent home with one bedroom and study. Recreation and living will combine in an open space where the outdoors becomes part of the house. Adaptable use of space adds flexibility for guests in a living room that transforms to become a spare bedroom for guests, as does the study. A timber canopy houses the solar array and allows for passive cooling of the photovoltaic panels, maintaining maximum efficiency. Dye sensitised solar cells in glass windows maximise solar energy gains during winter and sliding thermal shutters insulate windows at night.

The First Light House will be exhibited in the National Mall in Washington DC in September 2011. Keep up with the students’ progress here