Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the Urban Green Expo, the second annual sustainable shindig hosted by the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Urban Green Council. As green building conferences go, this one, described by Urban Green Council Programs & Policy director Yetsuh Frank as a “living room” for the council’s 1,500 members and other green building industry professionals, had it going on with a standout roster of speakers including keynoter William McDonough, educational sessions, and an action-packed exhibitor hall.

Although there were plenty of peruse n’ chat worthy exhibitors at the expo, one that I was particularly drawn to was the 2011 Solar Decathlon’s Team New York from the City College of New York. I extensively covered the 2009 Solar Decathlon and this summer’s first ever Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid, so I was pretty excited to get a sneak peak at the work of a hometown contender that will be duking it out amongst 20 international teams (“exotic” entrants this year include collegiate teams from New Zealand, China, Belgium and New Jersey) on the National Mall in D.C. next fall. Again, the challenge of the Solar Decathlon is to see which team can design, build and operate a solar-powered home “that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

Team New York’s entry into the 2011 Solar Decathlon, The Solar Roofpod, is remarkable in that it’s not so much a conventional, freestanding home but rather a sustainable living solution that addresses a distinctly New York dilemma: providing low-impact, quality housing in overcrowded urban areas where space is at a premium. 

Team New York’s idea? Take to the rooftops! Taking advantage of the “beneficial access to solar energy, wind, and water” presented by New York City’s underused roofs, the Solar Roofpod is a fantasy come true for anyone who has ever dreamt (myself including) of settling down in a self-sufficient rooftop homestead in the middle of the city. The modular design of the Solar Roofpod makes it easy to actually construct on top of a roof with a “building-block assembly system that enables each pod to be transported to a building's roof via staircase, freight elevator or crane hoisting.”

Photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Roofpod itself will supply power to the structure while thermal collectors will cover air conditioning and hot water needs. An integral part of the Roofpod is the outdoor space, a deck that helps “to transform the urban roof top into a healthy and attractive environment in which to live.”

Head on over to Team New York’s official website to learn more about the Solar Roofpod. Can’t wait to see it in all of its fully realized glory on the National Mall (no, it won’t be assembled atop a nearby building) in the fall of 2011…

Photo: Matt

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Team New York takes to the roof
The Solar Roofpod, Team New York's entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, is a modular rooftop abode that provides a sustainable living solution for space-strapped