Off the grid

Friday 19 Jun 2009

Student led design brings sustainable living to Kansas

Studio 804 is a not-for profit, design/build program at the University of Kansas. 804 serves as the final design studio for graduate students at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning. This final, single semester, comprehensive experience provides students with critical knowledge that prepares them for their future work as young architects in a rapidly changing and challenging profession.

Funded by the efforts of the students enrolled in the program, the programme's future success relies on the labours of each new, incoming group of graduate students. This single-family residence in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Kansas City is a prime example of what can be achieved.

Nestled on a secluded site near the University of Kansas Medical Center, the building acts as a prototype for the region, and it is Studio 804’s ambition for it to become the first LEED Platinum home in Kansas as well as the first home to primarily use renewable energy sources in Wyandotte County.

With pending approval of net-metering from the Wyandotte County Board of Public Utilities, this residence should be capable of routing energy back through the electric grid. During the morning and afternoon hours when energy consumption is in less demand, a 600 sq foot rooftop solar array and a residential wind turbine will send energy back to the electrical grid and thus, subtract from the monthly electrical bill. When the sun sets or the wind subsides, the residence taps into the public utility system similar to any other home. Therefore, the net electrical usage is in the homeowner’s favor and should pay minimal to no utility charges. In addition, a ground source heat pump helps to maintain a comfortable interior air temperature by utilizing the stable temperature of the earth. Exterior walls with 2 x 6 stud framing packed with wet pack blown cellulose insulation gives the assembly an R-20 insulation value. Likewise, the ceiling contains a minimum of twelve inches of blown cellulose yielding an R-38 assembly. A durable and efficient standing seam metal roof protects the roof assembly from moisture.

The building exterior features a vertical wood rain screen made of South American, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) hardwood. The interior of this 2,500 sq ft, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath residence features a double-height west wall which floods the space with filtered daylight via sunscreens and insulated rolling shades and offers views to a forest preserve removed of any planned commercial or residential development. The project is a lesson not only to the students who designed it but to any green-minded architect, that sustainable design can be both practical and beautiful.

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