RENEWED FOCUS: A team of students is building Techstyle Haus, a 750-square-foot prototype that produces its own energy. Above, from left: Rhode Island School of Design students Colin Wiencek, Kim Dupont-Madinier, RISD associate professor of architecture Jonathan Knowles and Brown University student Helen Bergstrom.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
IN STYLE: RISD students Alexandra Gadawski and Giles Holt with associate professor Jonathan Knowles, right. “This competition puts our students in a very real-world situation before they graduate,” Knowles said.
The Techstyle Haus, which is, literally, a textile house with a flexible exterior using high-performance material with solar cells laminated to the fabric, is rising in a Providence warehouse.
There are no solar panels, no racks to hold them, no plywood, no wallboard – basically, no traditional building materials.
This 17-foot-high, 750-square-foot prototype of a leading-edge dwelling has to produce its own energy for a fully equipped kitchen, heating, air conditioning, lighting, computer and TV.
The light-filled, flexible shell residence is being built by a team of students from Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany. It is one of two U.S. entries, and one of 20 teams worldwide, selected to participate in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France, beginning June 28.
“The design is just so different. I think RISD has an innovative way of approaching architecture,” said Gareth Rose, a sophomore in mechanical engineering at Brown who began working on the project when the idea for a Solar Decathlon entry was being crystallized a year-and-a-half ago.
“If you look at the pictures of the other Solar Decathlon houses that have been built before, almost all of them are rectangular, or a series of rectangles, with high-tech energy efficiency, and they’re ugly,” said Rose. “Techstyle Haus is beautiful.”
Rose is one of a broad cross-section of what has grown to be about 200 students from the three colleges who have participated in designing, generating funding and building the Techstyle Haus.
About 40 of those students make up a core crew working on the project regularly, right through to the time they disassemble what they’ve built in Providence, pack it up for overseas shipping and have 30 members of that team reassemble it at the competition in France.
Students participating include RISD students majoring in furniture design, textile design and architecture, and Brown students majoring in engineering and environmental studies
“I’m interested in electric cars, sustainable housing, sustainable anything,” said Rose, who is 19 years old and is the sponsorship manager for the Techstyle Haus project, which has so far gained funding, supplies and expertise from 17 companies. “I was too young when we started to do much related to engineering. I was a freshman at the beginning of my engineering education, so I got into project management. I try to account for what our needs are and get sponsors, so I’ve learned to write lots of emails asking for money.”