Novel Sustainable Living Solutions from the Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition

Published Dec-03-12

An international challenge open to architecture, design, and engineering students to design near zero energy family dwellings using active and passive solar heating as well as other sustainable construction-related solutions. Valuable lessons about open innovation were also learned.

Dow Chemical Company, United States

The Story:

Novel Sustainable Living Solutions from the Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition A versatile, cost-effective, and elegant living space for residential and commercial occupancy, covered by solar panels and that can pay for itself in less than 14 years was the winner of the Dow Solar Design to Zero competition.

This open innovation contest sought novel design concepts for affordable energy-efficient housing solutions on a global scale, and was open to undergraduate and graduate student teams from around the world.

Contestants had to design their project with their local climate and environment in mind, and take on board such considerations as local solar, wind and temperature range, as well as soils, water availability, vegetation, and cultural traditions.

Top Prize Winner

First place went to Live/Work, a team from South Carolina, US, consisting of two graduate students from Clemson University School of Architecture. They were awarded a prize of USD $20,000 to continue to research and development of their idea. Their green home concept goes beyond conventional building sustainability in that it incorporates commercial and residential functionalities.

By combining a top floor for residential space with a ground floor commercial unit, and by maximizing the use of the rooftop solar array the team is able to achieve a net-zero energy building. It would also be connected to the grid so that surplus energy of which there would be ample could be fed back into the system.

Other functional design features include:

1) Living walls - these provide shade during the summer and let in more light during the winter as their leaves fall away.

2) Managing rainwater - rain can be collected off the roof and stored in underground cisterns for use in the dwelling and for landscaping.

Other Prizes

There were also prizes for second and third place teams and they received $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, as well as a handful of honorable mentions.

Making Innovation Open

The competition was launched in August 2011 and 132 entries were submitted from 19 countries. By December of that year the number had been whittled down to 32 by a peer-review selection process. The teams that were left came from China, Spain, Korea, France, the USA, and a few other countries.

The winners were selected by the contestants themselves through a series of elections that were held online. The entire process was open and honest as one of the aims of the contest was to encourage dialogue between students from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures who shared a common passion and interest - producing a near zero energy home.

Encouraging the Spread of a More Open Innovation Culture

In this way the students received an early grounding in open innovation practices, seeing for themselves how the interaction of diverse people from several disciplines can at the very least provoke stimulating discussions and encourage new thinking, and at its best solve problems and/or produce disruptive solutions.

It is hoped that the participants will take this way of thinking into their professional careers, becoming champions of open innovation as a way to get things done

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