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Chipping away on CHIP

Meet Chip:

Chip is a solar, net-zero house: the Compact Hyper Insulated Prototype. It’s also the house we’re building for the Solar Decathalon at the Mall in Washington DC this fall!! Caltech and Sci-Arc, an architectural school in East LA, formed a team to build this house. You should definitely check out the website here.

The Solar Decathalon is (as described in the website linked above), "a U.S. Department of Energy Sponsored competition which challenges20 architecture and engineering schoolsfrom around the world to design and build a solar-powered, "net-zero" house. Every two years,these 20teams are chosen among 100+ entries to compete in this important competition." Our Team California is building a flashy new housespecifically targeted at the SoCal area. (It might take a few years for the style to take hold!)

Chip is meant to be a two-person house with a flashy, efficient interior aware of its exterior environment!

A group of students from Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) began the project a few years back (most of them just graduated – but they’re still helping with the house!). Last year, the project became a ME / EE / CS class. [I took the class first term, but didn’t have time the second two terms šŸ™ ]. This summer, the house is being built by a tough group of Techers + architects!

There was definitely some … collaberation… that needed to be done with the architects (who cared how the house looked) and the engineers (who didn’t really care about how nice the lamps were, but about how much energy they used šŸ™‚ ). The architects decided to put the insulation on the outside of the house – that’s the skin you can see in the pictures. That posed some challenges with mounting the solar panels on the roof. A lot of the stuff Caltech students worked on is here.

They finally have a house designed now (good thing too, since the DOE has documentation deadlines!). Since two of these Techers, Hima and Sara, are on ESW board with me, I hear a lot about how the house is going. They’re working on a pretty tight schedule, so I went with them on Saturday to help build the house / see how it was going. It looks AMAZING [and I got to see the solar panel + skin solution]!

Interestingly, the team I worked on fall term was the PV (photovoltaics, a fancy way to say solar panel + system) team — and I got to work on the solar panels on Saturday! We attached tigo units to the panels. These units will maximize the efficiency of each panel and send data on the performace of each panel to our CS team. I also got to climb on the roof and work on the wiring for the solar panels! By then, it was pretty late and it was really nice on the roof:

They mounted the PVs Sunday night, and are finishing the interior of the house this week. On Sunday, they’ll start disasembling the house and shipping it over to DC. I have to give a lot of credit to Hima and the rest of the crew working on this house. In the last few weeks especially, they’ve been working 12 hours a day 7 days a week trying to finish the house. They deserve a lot of credit! The team is flying to DC in early September, and they’ll be there through the end of the competition in early October.

Hima and I also had some fun playing with metal screws and an electric drill in a very tight containment behind the laundry room:

We got some of the walls ready for painting (though many will remain as wood) too, and worked on a lot of other house-building necessities.

For dinner, the Caltech students went to Little Tokyo which is really close by. I got some yummy white peaches in the grocery store there! I love white peaches. I think I’m getting fruit-spoiled. CA grows tons of fruit and veggies, and there’s a huge variety of everything here. There’s also a Pasadena farmers market each week that I try to go to.

It was super fun! We were working from about 9 am to 10 pm (minus food + water breaks!) and got a lot done. I wish the team best of luck in DC, but regardless of how they do in the competition, it’s been a great project and I really commend how hard they’ve all been working!!! This post does not do the house justice, so I really recommend going to their website! GO CHIP!!!

I’d also like to give credit for all the images here – the images of CHIP shown here were all taken from the Chip website!

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