That is where a team of students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is designing and constructing its entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The competition challenges 20 invited college and graduate student teams from around the world to design and build solar-powered, net-zero houses. Entries are designed and constructed over two years, culmire-assembly on the National Mall in Washington D.C. this fall for an intensive ten-day competition. It’s exhilarating, no doubt, for the entrants, not to mention an enjoyable, educational afternoon in the Capital for the 300,000-plus who tour the displayed homes. But the excitement only begins with the DOE “bake-off”—at least in our view
More significantly, Solar Decathletes draw the watchful eyes of venture capitalists, private-equity funds investing in cleantech and sustainability, and the product-innovation units of major industrial companies. They all seek the germs of new ideas conceived in an academic setting and suitable for transfer and development into the next commercial energy-saving and sustainable technologies. Is it likely that any of us will live in an 800-square-foot, polygon-shaped, five-level structure known as CHIP (the acronym for the SCI-Arc/Caltech entry, Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype)? Probably not anytime soon. But you could see the CHIP’s 11”-thick white cellulose exterior skin—which resembles a cross between a fluffy down quilt and the Michelin and Stay-Puft Marshmallow men — licensed by a corporation for specific commercial applications.
That’s just one case-in-point and, among the 20 entries, there will no doubt be tens, if not hundreds, of like products, processes and systems that push the conventional envelope and are ripe for near-term commercialization. watches with keen interest, owing to our work in environmental, cleantech and sustainable-product marketing public relations, as well as corporate communications for VCs, private-equity funds and technology licensees investing in these same sectors. When you’ve got a free hour, take a trip to visit the CHIP (and be sure to stop at the Wurstkuche on East Third Street for a gourmet sausage and Belgian fries). And then let us know if you see a wedge-shaped, five-level home in your future.