Movable Sustainability: The Case of a 2011 Solar Decathlon House

By Camilo Rosales and Mohammed Shanti.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Florida International University was selected by the US Department of Energy as one of the
twenty teams in the world to design and build a solar powered home. Teams will compete in 10 categories
including sustainability, architecture, engineering, and affordability. Decathlon houses must be built
in the locality of each university and then shipped to Washington, DC for contests and display on the
National Mall. The Florida International University (FIU) Solar Decathlon studio considered unique
challenges of design and construction: the house must satisfy two drastically different climate zones:
it must be built for tropical Miami (Florida), and also meet requirements of temperate Washington,
DC. The house also has to satisfy two different building codes: the strict code of hurricane-prone
Florida, and the building code of the District of Columbia. The house also needs to adapt to various
possible uses and locations after the competition. The TRANSTROPIC HOUSE has been envisioned
as an open and flexible pavilion that transacts with its climatic circumstances and transforms itself
according to the environmental conditions of its use. A contemporary interpretation of traditional
tropical architecture, the TRANSTROPIC HOUSE has movable external shutters that adapt to solar
positions by allowing various levels of enclosure. The adjustable perimeter louvers shade the interior
and also close tightly as hurricane shutters. Ample sliding glass doors help with cross-ventilation,
while superior insulation protects the house from heat gain and loss. Innovative building-integrated
photovoltaic and solar thermal systems provide the highest levels of comfort for visitors with minimal
impact on the environment. Modular construction will ease assembly in Florida, transportation to
Washington, erection at the National Mall, and moving the house back to Miami where it is intended
to be reused as a visitor’s center for the FIU natural preserve.

Keywords: Movable, Flexible, Adaptable

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.367-382. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.843MB).

Prof. Camilo Rosales

Associate Professor of Architecture, College of Architecture and The Arts, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA

Camilo Rosales, AIA is an Associate Professor of architecture at Florida International University and an award-winning practicing architect based in Miami, Florida. Mr. Rosales received a Master of Architecture II from Harvard University and a Master and Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a registered architect in the states of New York and Florida. He has received design and teaching awards from the American Institute of Architects and a fellowship from the International Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS,Germany) for work related to sustainable design. Mr. Rosales’ Academic work is a reflection of his practice which seeks to integrate nature, culture and technology. Mr. Rosales worked in New York for I.M. Pei and Partners, for SOM (in joint venture with Frank O. Gehry) and with HOK. He also worked with Arquitectonica in Miami. Publications of his built work include Abitare magazine, Architectural Digest, AIA Guide to Miami, the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture magazine among others.

Mohammed Shanti

Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA

Mohammed Shanti is a graduate student of Architecture at Florida International University. He is responsible for the design of the TRANSTROPIC HOUSE featured in this article. He is also responsible for all the line graphics shown to explain this sustainable and exciting project.


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