Solar Decathlon is an international exhibition in which teams from various countries around the world compete to build a fully functional solar-powered house, applying cutting-edge technologies and innovations in a month-long competition.
The teams have to make a live model of the house on the site within 15-20 days. The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon also designated as ‘The Olympics of Solar Powered Houses’ challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.
Team SHUNYA from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, is the only team from India to have been selected in Solar Decathlon 2018, which will be held in Dezhou, China.
SHUNYA stands for ‘Sustainable Habitat for an Urbanising Nation by its Young Aspirants’. Team SHUNYA is motivated to contribute to the goal of creating a sustainable future by providing a solution to India’s growing energy and housing problems.
The 60 members of the team are not mere engineers, but young, innovative technocrats with an inextinguishable desire to serve humanity.
Talking to The Better India, Team SHUNYA says, “Our project is also in line with the Smart Cities Mission of the Government in setting examples and defining standards that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City.”
The team had earlier taken part in Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 and got “Honourable mention in Sustainability”, securing highest points in innovation in engineering. The team came out with innovations in solar-powered appliances, photovoltaic systems, and house simulations.
With amazing lessons learned from the past, Team SHUNYA has designed and built its prototype house–Project Solarise–as per the climatic conditions of Amaravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, to demonstrate energy-efficient solar housing.
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Project Solarise will be Team SHUNYA’s second endeavour in Solar Decathlon, to be held in China in mid 2018. In this competition, each team is required to design and build a solar-powered G+1 House for a family of six, with a finished area of 1,800 sq ft with net-positive energy generation.
The term “net-positive energy” stands for the concept of buildings generating their own energy needs by using renewable on-site power generation. This is done by photovoltaic (PV) panels, sometimes by windmills or a combination.
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Project Solarise unites traditional architecture with contemporary interior designs, modern lifestyle and futuristic amenities in a single house.
“Our project’s goal is to design and build a modular, pre-fabricated, net-positive energy house for a sustainable future which will answer the energy and housing problems of India,” said Ruturaj Sambhus and K Naga Bhavya Jyothi, the project leaders of Team SHUNYA.
There is a huge potential for solving housing challenges in India like sustainability, energy consumption, etc. “The energy consumption of housing is about 33% of the total consumption, and a sustainable solution would have a huge impact on the housing market,” shared Team SHUNYA.
This project will also introduce hybrid construction in the realms of Indian housing, diverging from the conventional building industry.
The hybrid house can be altered to fit any requirements and needs, and unlike conventional housing, Solarise is built on steel. This, in turn, increases the life of the house and also provides the option of reusability.
The ‘Net-Positive Energy’ house has been designed with thorough research about the climatic and geographical conditions of the place. Passive solar architecture is the central design tenet with the aim of reducing the requirement for artificial thermal and lighting control as far as possible.
“Due to rapid urbanisation, urban residents are moving far away from nature. We aim to bring nature closer to humans through our design and intend to integrate the concept of urban farming as well,” they shared.
Apart from the construction of the house, the team is also involved in awareness activities to promote sustainable construction in India. These include a website, social media platforms, lectures, workshops, and active participation in various conferences.
With a growing population, the housing sector is one of the booming energy consumers in the country. And so, there is a pressing need to design and build homes that are comfortable, cost-effective and sustainable.
Team SHUNYA elaborates their future goals saying, “As of now, Project Solarise is focusing on the needs of the upper-middle-class section of our country for sustainable living on a longer run, but with more research on this field, we hope that we can make a difference in the rural areas as well.”
The team is also working to give solutions on innovative technologies based on solar energy in a household, like waste recovery cloth dryer, PCM-based energy storage building walls, solar oven, etc., with improved efficiencies for future development.
“If the dreams of Team SHUNYA gain wings in implementation and replication, it would surely transform the Indian Building Industry by demonstrating sustainable housing,” Team SHUNYA concludes.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)