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Thermodynamic Sunblock: Learning from the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge

How might architectural education change to accommodate the opportunity of designing thermodynamic systems beyond the building scale?

Published onOct 24, 2019
Thermodynamic Sunblock: Learning from the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge
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Abstract

How might architectural education change to accommodate the opportunity of designing thermodynamic systems beyond the building scale? This paper provides an overview of a proposal for a district energy system in Tucson, Arizona originally developed for the 2019 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge. The proposal was developed over the course of one semester with students in two separate classes: a design studio with nine students and an elective with 17 students co-convened during a portion of the scheduled studio time. Teams of students developed three projects: a co-working space (a net exporter of heat), a retrofit school (with a sizable existing chiller system underutilized in summer), and a retrofit of an existing 1950's uninsulated masonry house with the option to add a small additional dwelling unit. The design intention is to use photovoltaic energy generation, air-to-water heat pumps, and an existing network of backyard utility easements to create and move excess thermal energy within a relatively low-density superblock in Tucson, Arizona. The long-term goal of the SunBlock project is to make the entire neighborhood net-zero or net-positive while reducing stress on the electric grid.

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