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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Midd SD Team Video!

Check out our new video, explaining our project and our process:

Midd Solar Decathlon Story from Midd SD on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


SD Spotlight: Joe Baisch

"In our work for the Solar Decathlon, we are becoming familiar with some computer software used in the industry (Revit Architecture, 3ds Max, Vectorworks, Adobe Creative Suite). While these programs are powerful design tools, struggling with their intricacies has allowed all team members to appreciate the flexibility of hand drawings. In the Architectural Studies Program at Middlebury, we are discouraged from relying on computer programs for our work. We are taught to describe our ideas using models and drawings created by hand, and accordingly learn to conceptually and creatively approach design projects.

(Modeled in RevIt; Rendered in 3ds max; Organized in Adobe Photoshop)

(It's nice to be working on hand drawings again.)

As we have been honing in on Self Reliance's final form and floor plan, we have started to design important details. Recently, students have been focusing on the post and beam brackets and partition wall joinery. With these details we hope to truthfully expose how Self Reliance is put together and to reveal the forces at work in the home. More images to come as the designs are resolved."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our Vermont Community

Yesterday, Abe and Addison picked up a collection of books on solar energy from local resident Ed Fagen. After having used the books to design his own solar home, Ed generously donated them as resources for our project. The books are extremely interesting and useful, but even more appreciated was the gesture. It’s invaluable when a local community member reaches out to us.

Also recently, The Hawthorne Club (a monthly discussion group in Middlebury) invited us to share our project at one of the club’s upcoming meetings. We’ve had numerous Vermonters reach out to us already, and we look forward to continuing our interactions and strengthening our connections. We also look forward to giving back to the community through events such as educational presentations to schools. Lots to come, and we’re so thankful for be involved with, and supported by, such a strong community!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Local Solar Home

We just returned from a really neat solar home in Ripton, VT. Decked out with PV panels, this structure incorporates a diverse array of green design elements. From local Vermont slate countertops to cabinet shelves made of compressed sawdust, the building materials were as green as could be.

Homeowners Judy and Kyle gave us a tour, showcasing their forced-air woodstove, battery bank, and multi-level architecture. Judy remarked on how time-consuming it was to research and locate eco-friendly home products, adding that many of those items are becoming increasingly accessible and affordable. Time is definitely a limiting factor for our project, so we need to be efficient in our efforts to identify products and suppliers for the Self-Reliance home.

It was inspiring to see a house in a rural area that still felt relatively modern inside. It was also helpful to see certain architectural elements that we have been considering in our design, such as eight-inch white pine posts. The more we see, the more we are inspired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Office Animals

Recently, our office at the Harris Farmhouse has been attracting wild animals. In the past week, we have encountered multiple snakes, frogs, insects, and other creatures around the premises. Most surprisingly, we discovered that a small family of feral cats has been living under the foundation of the building. The two kittens appear to be around eight weeks old and their mother is quite protective. Since feline overpopulation is a pressing problem in Addison County, the local Humane Society came over and set up traps to catch, spay/neuter, and administer shots to the cats. From there, they will either be socialized and adopted as domestic pets, or released back to their original outdoor site. Adding to the animal excitement, one of the team members decided to adopt a Humane Society kitten that had been saved from a similar situation. His name is Frizby Bixby, and his upbeat presence in the office has quickly earned him the official title of Team Mascot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Timber Framing in Bensonwood

SD Spotlight: Team member Wyatt Komarin shares insights on a recent excursion...

"After a two-hour drive along country roads on a glorious June day, we arrived at Bensonwood Homes in Walpole New Hampshire. Bensonwood is well known for their timber framing, but they have grown into a sophisticated design/build organization comprised of architects, engineers, and craftsmen, with an emphasis on sustainable homebuilding,

Upon our arrival, were greeted by Hans Porschitz and Kevin Bittenbender (a Midd alum!), who are responsible for panel design and woodworking, respectively. After describing our Solar Decathlon House to them, Hans and Kevin provided us with suggestions for transport methods, construction systems, and relayed some pros and cons of SIP construction.

Tedd Benson himself popped in to the meeting, a spirited man, and full of wisdom about timber framing and building.

A tour of Bensonwood's workshops followed, where we witnessed skilled woodworkers form beautiful timber beams. The greatest revelation came in the panel building workshop, where Bensonwood builds complete panelized wall sections of their design. We were particularly impressed with these panels, and the potential to use a similar construction system for our house."

Bensonwood from Midd SD on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New House Name: "Self-Reliance"

After speaking with Team Appalachia about sharing the same house name, we decided to come up with a new one. We let “Solar Homestead” go, and began brainstorming. Several potential new names have been proposed and debated, but team member opinions vary when it comes to how we should verbally express our design. In June, the most popular student-generated name was Harvest Home. Although well received by most, it faced some potential copyright issues, and the team felt like it didn’t quite click. Our faculty advisor suggested that we consider using an active verb in our name, and assured us that it was OK to stray from convention. We kept thinking.

One day in early June, after a long hot day of work, several team members went to a nearby swimming hole to cool off and unwind. Immersed in nature, and relaxed by the water, the name discussion re-surfaced. As a result, the group came upon a name that encapsulates several key aspects of our target homeowner’s lifestyle – growing food, generating electricity, and living lightly on the planet. The suggestion, “Self-Reliance,” also represents the Vermont identity of being self-sufficient and self-sustaining in the face of challenging geographic and climatic conditions. The term grew on everyone, as we all realized that it broadly, yet precisely, embodies what our home stands for.

A subsequent question arose: how would we incorporate that term into the title? Would it be called The Self-Reliance House? Self-Reliance Home? Or simply just Self-Reliance? With our website in the works, we must commit to a particular way of branding our project and be consistent throughout our promotional materials. For now, we'll keep it simple: Self-Reliance. We especially admired Team New Zealand’s house name of “First Light,” which is fresh, original, and free from cliché words like “green” or “sustainable.” Hopefully, our newest name will be a hit!