After traveling to Nashville last month for a chance to get behind the wheel of the tailpipe-less wonder that’s taking the auto world my storm, the Nissan Leaf, I blogged about my experience focusing not on the vehicle itself — I’ll leave that to MNN auto guru Jim Motavalli — but on the Leaf's vital relationship with the home, the primary place where owners “fuel-up” this all-electric car. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, it becomes obvious that those with private garages (bonus points if the home in question has solar systems) have a distinct upper-hand when it comes to convenience compared to let’s say, apartment dwellers, at least until more widespread public infrastructure is in place.
And then there’ s the Plus-Energy House with Electromobility, a high-tech, modular concept home to be built in Berlin that generates enough electricity to power the house itself and charge any electric vehicles parked in the carport.
This tricked-out net-zero energy abode that “demonstrates the potential of actively coupling energy flows between the emerging fleet of electric vehicles and our built environment” was designed by The Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart (a top contender at last summer's Solar Decathlon Europe) as part of a design competition held by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building, and Urban Development.
The project not only illustrates the feasibility of building future single-family homes which generate a significant surplus of energy – enough to power the electric vehicles of their occupants – but also demonstrates how future buildings can be designed and built to allow for complete disassembly and recycling at the end of their life cycle. The holistic planning approach employed by the interdisciplinary design team takes the scope of “sustainable design” to a new level, incorporating energy and material concepts which surpass the standards set by previous milestone projects such as the SolarDecathlon competition.
A glass-clad energy core serves as both an architectural interface and a building systems hub between the mobile and immobile living spaces of the occupants. Extending from the garden side of this core is a compact two-storey volume housing the private living areas, while on the street side a large open frame serves as a showcase for the public, providing real-time information about the house and its electric vehicles through a dynamic interactive display system. The focus of innovation in the development of the concept was on the coupling of energy flows and energy storage between living environment and electromobility, and this coupling is embodied in the design through the conscientious architectural layering in plan of the plus- energy house, the energy core, and the showcase. The layout of the interior spaces and the distribution of opaque and glazed cladding surfaces are optimized for minimal energy loss, maximum natural daylighting, and selective solar gain. This energy optimization combined with extensive building integration of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems allow the house to produce a net annual surplus of energy, more than is needed to supply the house and its electric vehicles. This net surplus is fed into the public electricity grid, and contributes to the renewable component of the total energy mix.