Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inhabitat Interview with the Winning Lead Designer of the 2011 Solar Decathlon

Here is an Inhabitat interview with David Gavin the project design lead for the University of Maryland team that won the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Their winning entry was a solar powered, water conservation-focused home called the WaterShed.

INHABITAT: How did you get involved in the 2011 Solar Decathlon?

David: I became involved in the 2011 Solar Decathlon pretty much the minute I began my graduate degree in architecture at the University of Maryland. When I was applying to graduate schools, I saw that Maryland had presented course options for their Solar Decathlon entry. At that point I knew that Maryland and the Solar Decathlon would be a great fit for me because I wanted my graduate education to go beyond the classroom, and I wanted to get my hands dirty. The Solar Decathlon has been able to provide that, and I feel that it has prepared me very well for the professional world by allowing me to work collaboratively with people from a variety of fields, including the engineering, construction and management disciplines. It has also presented many of the technical and logistical challenges of a real building project.

INHABITAT: What is your favorite part of the WaterShed Home design?

David: My favorite design element of WaterShed is probably the relationship between the constructed wetlands we’ve created inside the house and the bathroom. When one stands in the shower, they realize the impact of their water usage simply through being able to see the water draining into the grey water filtration wetlands just outside the window. The bathroom’s open design and delicate detailing suggest the continuation of the wetlands through the bathroom, thus reinforcing our message of water conservation.

INHABITAT: What do you think it was that pushed your team’s house to the top of the Solar Decathlon pack and allowed you to win the competition?

David: Two of the main things that allowed us to win the 2011 Solar Decathlon were integration and organization. The University of Maryland had a number of different departments and majors working on WaterShed, and our constant communication among all disciplines allowed us to design a truly integrated house. Every component of the house, from structure to envelope to landscape to mechanical, plumbing and electrical components, were all designed with respect to the other disciplines. This minimized conflicts during the construction period, and in the end, allowed WaterShed to function most optimally during the competition. Organization was also key, all of the team leaders were in constant communication and aware of their responsibilities so that we could operate the house with precision and confidence throughout the competition.

INHABITAT: The Team Maryland WaterShed Home was designed in Revit. Was BIM (Building Information Modeling) an important part of your design process? Can you explain how you used it and how it helped you?

David: BIM was very important in the design process of WaterShed. Being able to model WaterShed in three dimensions was very important in the integration of all of the house’s systems. Not only did we model the structure and architecture of the house, but we created all of the engineering systems as well. BIM allowed us to see all of these systems together in one program, which in turn allowed us to design all of the house components in relation to each other so that there were no hot water lines running through light fixtures or ductwork cutting through structural members. This proved to be critical because it minimized the amount of problem solving we had to do in the field during construction. BIM was also great because it allowed us to generate all of our construction documents very efficiently. The 3D model also served as the base for all of the renderings and graphics we used for our communications materials.

INHABITAT: How did BIM technology allow you to do things you might not otherwise have been able to do?

David: One of the great ways BIM was able to help us with WaterShed was being able to see all components of the house in three dimensions. It allowed us to really make sure that everything within the house actually fit and worked before we began construction (in a way that two-dimensional drawings would not have been able to reveal). Being able to explore the 3D model of the house also helped us to resolve many construction details before construction even began. So, BIM really helped us to streamline not only our documentation process, but construction as well. Our use of BIM definitely gave us an edge and probably helped us to win the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Not only did it allow us to efficiently design and build a great house, many of the materials that were generated from the model helped us place in many of the juried categories. The quality of our construction documents was a scoring factor in both the architecture and engineering competitions, and in both we were praised for the completeness and clarity of our documents. Also, the model was the basis for many of our graphics, which were judged in the communications contest. So, our ability to create a great BIM model was definitely a big part of our victory.

INHABITAT: What would you like to do after you graduate from the University of Maryland? What are your goals?

David: After I graduate from University of Maryland, my main goal is to just get a job! I would like to get a job in a smaller architecture firm somewhere along the east coast. I would like to learn how to run a firm and operate a business so that I can one day accomplish my goal of having my own practice specializing in urban design and redevelopment.

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Inhabitat Interview with the Winning Lead Designer of the 2011 Solar Decathlon
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