“Curious” About Sustainable Design?

October 5, 2009 / no comments


A local group of students from the Boston Architectural College and Tufts University are more than just curious. These students have combined creative efforts, engineering skills, and a shared passion to jump-start a wave of curiosity in others; Team Boston was formed to propose, design, and build an actual solar-powered model home. The Curio House took on its motto, “live curious”, to inspire others to seek out energy-saving, sustainable architecture.


Curio is Team Boston’s entry at the upcoming Solar Decathlon, an internationally recognized biannual competition that works to promote, educate, and foster sustainable innovations in building technology. The competition is sponsored by the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It calls for student groups to build a solar-powered house that will compete in ten categories. The house will be evaluated on its overall energy performance in simulated “daily living” scenarios, on the basis of the quality of its architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, indoor comfort, hot water production, appliances, home entertainment, and energy production/consumption through net metering.

The construction site at Tufts University has enjoyed enthusiastic support from other local students, professionals, and community members. Inspired by the students’ bold efforts, and by the innovative nature and challenge of the project, Lam Partners has proudly sponsored Team Boston in their quest for the most energy-efficient solar-powered house at the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.


Over the past couple of months we have had the privilege of getting to know and work with some of the dedicated and high-spirited members of Team Boston to help refine and execute their lighting design goals and strategy. We supported their efforts through computer modeling, mock-up studies, and fixture selection advice, and by arranging generous donations from lighting manufacturers. We’ve collaborated with the team to realize a lighting design with high aspirations for the competition.

Curio takes advantage of many energy-saving, green technologies, such as passive solar design, daylighting, a solar thermal hot water system, and a photovoltaic panel array to generate the home’s electricity. The energy-conscious electric lighting system takes advantage of efficient fluorescent and LED fixtures, occupancy sensors, and dimming to further reduce energy use while enhancing occupant comfort.


The lighting portion of the competition focuses on the quality of a functional, efficient, pleasing lighting design. The lighting concept for the main living space expands on the idea of the house as a central space with a lot of user flexibility. The main ambient light is provided by linear LED fixtures concealed in architectural coves that define the perimeter. There are also several instances of task lighting provided throughout the main living area to accommodate various user needs.

Lighting at the exterior is minimal, with LEDs providing soft, appropriate light levels on the ramp surfaces for wayfinding, and LED downlights to highlight the entries. The exterior is lit exclusively with LED sources to minimize energy consumption. This strategy is used to emphasize the energy savings, as well as to enhance the overall perception of the lighting technologies employed throughout the design.


The house is also engineered in such a way that it can be disassembled, transported, and reassembled for competition. Currently Team Boston is disassembling the house and heading to Washington D.C. to finish construction, compete, inspire curiosity, and exhibit their hard work, from October 8th through the 16th.

The Curio House is a great example of learning, refining, and implementing energy-efficient strategies within daily home life. As part of the continuously evolving “green design” movement, the project defines and proposes viable building solutions for sustainable living, such that the future of the house itself is also evolving.

After a rigorous and exciting cycle of competition in D.C., the house will find a permanent home on Cape Cod as one of the first structures in a new green housing development, where it will be able to live out and expand upon its green foundation and ideals. To follow the progress of Live Curio, throughout the competition and beyond, check out the website at http://www.livecurio.us/.


Image Credits: Team Boston (1, 4, 6); Allison Fisk (2, 5), Glenn Heinmiller / Lam Partners Inc (3)