Solar House Report

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The Solar House Field Trip Report
The solar house is a project of the University of the Incarnate Word engineering students
in collaboration with the solar community. The project was completely designed, planned and
constructed by the engineering students. The main aim of the project was to come up with a
project that would allow students to put their engineering skills in practice and gain experience
by working on a real construction project and demonstrate their management skills. The project
demonstrates green building since it was built using environmentally friendly processes, for
example, use of recycled materials during construction and its helical pier foundation system
ensures that the disturbance on native soil is minimal. The project also makes use of renewable
energy, thus saving energy and utilizes water efficiently; hence it is a fully sustainable house.
There were various constraints that the site location of the solar house project presented
during its construction. These constraints include; the site being too small and susceptible to
flooding thus making construction difficult, the soil conditions of the site varied from point to
point making it hard to determine whether it would be able to bear the weight of the house.
Another challenge was the presence of a utility easement which runs through the site, and thus
construction had to be disrupted from time to time to allow for routine maintenance of the utility
easement. The project site was within an area with existing buildings; thus it was a difficult task
accessing the area during construction. The utility easement that runs through the site, the small
site space allocated and the site being located in a parking lot thus hindering parking around the
site area were the major factors that contributed to a small allocation of site space.
The solar house project has an environmentally friendly design. The materials used to
build the roof, walls and floor were initially prefabricated with environmental friendly materials.
The structure is bolted using giant screws to the ground, making it possible to be moved if need
be, with minimal effects on the soil it is built on. The unique V-shaped roof ensures efficient
collection of rainwater. In addition, the use of renewable solar energy makes it fully sustainable.
These features contribute to green certification. The design of the house is universally making it
convenient to everyone, safe and easily accessible to all kinds of people. The project achieved
the goal of zero energy utilization by designing a renewable design solar system. With the help
of the solar community, the racking system of a total size of 7.5 kW was installed. The system
contains 25 sunpower, 225 watts panels and 10 Sanyo bifacial panels. The solar home has a
capability of sustaining its energy requirements, and surplus energy is supplied to the university.
The daily average energy production is between 30 to37 kWh and the daily average consumption
is between 25 to 32 kWh thus a surplus average of 5 to 7 kWh of clean energy is sent to the
university grid every day.
As a result of the above-mentioned design features that were taken into consideration, the
house project has been able to attain full sustainability. Sustainability refers to the ability to meet
present needs without affecting the ability to meet future needs of the next generation, i.e. the
capacity to endure. The natural environment is the core of our well-being and survival since our
needs are directly or indirectly dependent on it. Everything that we use is obtained from the
natural environment; hence there is a need to sustain it to ensure that provision of the present
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generation needs does not ability to meet the needs of the future generations. To attain
sustainability, international organizations dealing with environmental sustainability should
cooperate with member state authorities in enforcing laws and regulations regarding
conservation of the environment. These organizations should also aim to create awareness on the
importance of constructing green buildings.
The solar greenhouse project was designed with the aim of attaining the LEED
certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a set
of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and the maintenance of green buildings,
homes and neighborhoods. LEED is an internationally recognized green building program which
was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The program is meant to
ensure environmental responsibility and efficient use of resources by. The main function of the
USGBC is to regulate and oversee the LEED certification process.
Over the years, LEED has evolved to incorporate new green building technologies.
LEED rating systems are available for all kinds of activities including; new construction,
healthcare, retail, homes, core & shell, neighborhoods, schools, existing buildings and
commercial interiors To participate in LEED, a building must comply with the environmental
rules and regulations, building permanence and pre-rating completion, site boundaries, the
scenarios of occupancy and the area to site ratios. Data on the energy and water consumption for
five years after occupancy in the case of new construction or certification date for existing
buildings should be provided by the owners.
The Green Building Certification Institute is a third party that verifies compliance of the
project to LEED requirements. It offers LEED certification, which is a standard recognized for
measuring the sustainability of a building. There are four levels of certification that buildings
can qualify for; the highest is platinum, followed by gold, then silver and the lowest level of
certification is certified. Buildings acquire these levels of certification depending on the number
of credits accrued from the green design categories. The main credit categories are; sustainable
sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and
resources, innovation in operation and regional priority. The solar greenhouse building has
managed to attain most of these credit categories due to its features and the compliance to the
American Disabilities Act. Thus, it is rated at the platinum level, which is the highest level of
certification. The rating was done in 2012 by the U.S. Green Building Council under the LEED
for homes program.
In conclusion, the solar house project is a good example showing the environmental
benefits that can be obtained through green construction. In order to sustain the natural
environment, both locally and globally, more campaigns should be done to create awareness on
the importance of constructing buildings that are environmentally friendly. Some of the factors to
consider while constructing green buildings include construction materials, use of renewable
sources of energy and recycled materials and implementing designs with minimal negative
impacts on the environment. All these factors contribute to the conservation of the natural
environment and, therefore, curbing the ever growing global environmental problems.

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