A team of area students hopes to win big with a quick-to-build, energy-efficient home. Judge for yourself by taking a tour of the just-completed Medford project.
There’s a new building on the Tufts University campus in Medford, but it’s not a dorm or an academic center. It’s an ultra energy-efficient home dubbed Curio House, designed and built by a group of students from Tufts and Boston Architectural College (BAC). The roughly 800-square-foot home is open to visitors, but for a limited time -- this fall it will be moved to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where it will compete in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, a contest sponsored by the US Department of Energy.
Though the house relies on new technologies -- a prominent display in the entryway shows how much energy rooftop solar photovoltaic panels are generating and how much electricity the house is consuming -- “it’s meant to feel like a typical American home, not like living inside a computer,” says Michelle Stadelman, the home’s construction project manager and a master’s candidate at BAC. Indeed, the low-impact design is quite livable. Rows of windows on the long north and south sides let in plenty of light, with shades for privacy; on the south side, there’s a 3-foot overhang to block high, intense summer sun, and the windows are treated to hold in cool or warm air, depending on the season. A Murphy bed and closet are built into the east wall. The entry and bathroom are to the west, and a deck outside the kitchen on the north side is shaded from direct sun by a garden trellis wall. Nothing goes to waste: There’s a rooftop rainwater catchment system big enough to irrigate an 800-square-foot garden. Because two of the home’s sides are mostly glass, there’s a tall storage unit on casters housing a wardrobe, bookshelves, and a home office system; it can also be used to divide the living area or be pushed aside for entertaining.
Employing energy-efficient off-the-shelf components -- solar panels, a solar water heater, and radiant floor heating -- the Curio House is designed to generate at least as much energy as it uses in a New England climate and to be relatively affordable. (Estimated construction cost is around $300,000, including labor.) “Very few architects and engineers have any real understanding of highly efficient, high-performance solar buildings. It’s not taught in most architecture or engineering schools,” says William Moomaw, an environmental policy professor at Tufts who is helping with the project. “This is an opportunity for students to leap ahead of the curriculum. We’re educating the designers of the future.”
Jennifer Weeks is a freelance writer in Watertown. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curious? See more renderings like the ones above, plus details about the competition and tours, at livecurio.us.