Sustainable design and a love of architecture drew a sizable crowd to the Missouri S&T Eco Village off Innovation Drive late Saturday afternoon. They came to tour the new student-designed and built passive solar home, dubbed “Silo.” Here's what they saw . . .

Sustainable design and a love of architecture drew a sizable crowd to the Missouri S&T Eco Village off Innovation Drive late Saturday afternoon.  They came to tour the new student-designed and built passive solar home, dubbed “Silo.” The crowd heard introductory remarks from Director of Design for the Missouri S&T Solar House Design Team Jenny Nickel, Project Manager Luke Mueller and Missouri S&T Interim-Chancellor Christopher Maples. Solar home tours followed, and to add to the celebratory mood of the late afternoon crowd, Stephane Menand, assistant director of the Office of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engagement, cooked French crepes on-site.

For those not familiar with the extracurricular Solar House Design Team projects and competitions, the group’s website states “All of our homes are built and furnished with as many sustainable products as possible. Each of the homes in the Solar Village serve as student housing after competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.
Each house is built using passive solar techniques, where the design process allows reduced energy needs to regulate the interior environment. The educational program has a broader perspective—learning how to live sustainably.”

According to Director Jenny Nickel, planning for the Silo home was started in 2015.
“I remember all the late nights working on drawings and deliverables,” she shared. “One night in particular, we took over an empty computer lab, trying to render 10 images at once. One good high quality rendering can take hours. We were there a little while, but we got the job done.” She mentioned the group got outside professional help from global engineer/architect firm CannonDesign, at their St. Louis office.

Yesterday, the group started taking the house apart for the decathlon competition in Denver. The house is built in modules, with each module pushed together on a sliding rail system and fastened together. This makes for building efficiencies and easy construction, and in this case, easy tear-down for moving the whole house structure.
“This will be the seventh time, Missouri S&T has competed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon,” said Nickel. “Teams from all over the world participate in this competition and S&T has competed in all of them except 2011. This is more than any other team.”
She said Missouri S&T’s Solar House Design Team will compete against 12 other universities, including Washington University in St. Louis, and a team from the Netherlands.
There will be six juried contests: architectural, engineering, market potential, communications, innovation and water use. An additional four contests will measure health and comfort, appliances, home life and energy use.
From drawing board to reality in the Eco Village, Nickel said that most importantly, the Solar House Design Team will be sharing their ideas with the public.

“This has been a long haul,” said Interim-Chancellor Maples. “But it’s one of those things that our students do that I find is so valuable, so rewarding and so wonderful [to their learning process].”
Maples recognized that these students can do the planning and theoretical phases of a project, but that they can also take it to the next step, where the vision becomes a reality—such as in the white solar home looming behind him.
“They can demonstrate how engineering and all of the things we teach here can benefit the world,” he said.”
Since the solar home design team is extra-curricular, where everyone is a volunteer, Maples reflected on the value of this extra experience that adds to their regular, rigorous course load. He said they are learning how to work in teams and how to communicate their ideas, so they will be understood by others. He said it takes a lot of commitment, desire and drive to accomplish what this design team has done.
“I’m incredibly proud of “Silo” and what these students have done,” he added. “It’s a beautiful house.”

Miggy Santos-Tankia, the student in charge of home automation on the solar design team, served as tour guide. He explained that the competition required the home be no more than 1000 square feet of floor space, so this home was 998 square feet. His work was relegated to the room that housed the DC (direct current) solar power inputs from the roof-top panels that would be storing electrical power in batteries to be converted to AC (alternating current), for home appliance use. The living area atrium, which featured an open kitchen floor plan had north-facing windows installed near the ceiling that could be controlled to open or shut, depending on the programmed home environment. The home features floor radiant heating for winter and is considered a “zero energy” home, meaning it produces as much renewable energy as it will consume over the course of a year.

“Thousands of people will come to Denver to see the homes and find inspiration to take into their own lives,” said Director Nickel. “We want to show the public and the press that you don’t need to give up your modern comforts to live sustainably.”