A team from the City College of New York has envisioned a rooftop “pod” that would enable New York apartments to capture solar energy at an affordable market price.
The design is the school’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition that involves 20 collegiate teams that build solar-powered houses. The 746 s/f model structure targets the top of existing mid-rise residential and commercial buildings, with a modular design that allows for variation in size, shape and usage.
A spokesman for the City College said the project could be built for hundreds of thousands of dollars, a realistic price for local developers.
The core of the pod will have a mechanical unit that controls lightning, heating, ventilation and cooling. Aesthetics were also taken into account: the façade is a glazed curtain wall with a poplar wood frame, providing insulation, and the interior core is clad with bamboo, contrasting with the lighter tones of the walls.
It is topped with solar panels that are built to withstand wind loads and micro-inverters on each individual panel. A steel frame supports the structure, along with a surrounding a plant garden, which mitigates heat buildup, and irrigation system.
The design of the project addresses the city’s PlaNYC sustainability initiative, generating 11.6 megawatt hours of energy, and saving roughly $2,500 in annual energy and water charges, as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 kilograms, compared to typical apartments.
A feasibility study found that most buildings in a typical New York neighborhood could support the pods. Currently, a prototype is being constructed in Washington, D.C., and will be open to the public during the Solar Decathlon competition, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.
The design team consists of over 100 students and faculty from City College’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering. The project’s sponsors include Sciame, Con Edison, Turner Construction and architecture firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates.