Design Approach


The concept of our house is based on local conditions, but we are confident that these systems are applicable around the globe. We are expecting much drier climate conditions during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France. The challenge is to design a house that functions well in the both dry and humid conditions. However, this will provide us with valuable experience that will contribute to our plans of marketing the house in different cities and countries.
We have designed the house so that both sunlight and water are utilized to ensure optimal living conditions and minimal waste. Our house harnesses natural light not only to generate electric energy through the photovoltaic panels integrated on the roof, but also to regulate the internal temperatures of the house through a thermal mass wall. We also maximize water efficacy by using greenhouse evaporative cooling and drip irrigation systems. Lastly, the functions of sunlight and water intersect to provide heated water that can be used domestically as well as to regulate indoor temperatures when it is cold outside. The implementation of such systems will provide great benefit at little cost, as the lightweight structure of the house will allow for efficient construction and low budgets.


House Design


Exploded Axon
Given the premises of the SDE competition is targeted to design and build a single house, however, our aspiration is to develop a potential prototype of urban housing for the young start-ups in the city. For achieving such goal with affordability, we conceived a rather flexible, modularized structural system which is expandable for multi-storey urban buildings. We further facilitate the prototyping with sustainable principle by utilize recycled steel, sponsored by Tung-Ho Steel Company – the leading ship-recycling corporation in Taiwan. The urban youth housing is aimed to reach maximum self-sufficiency in many ways such as the utilization of solar energy, recycling rainwater for drip-irrigation for the local agriculture of vegetation as one of the food sources.
Team Unicode’s “Orchid House” will incorporate all of the progressive technology that is available in the NCTU research lab, Hsinchu Science and Technology Industrial park, as well as all over Taiwan, including greenhouse technologies, digital environmental control interfaces, solar thermal collectors, and high efficiency photovoltaic panels. However, if we only rely on those technologies, the construction costs will likely exceed the limit of market availability. We aim to make the Orchid House available at a low cost by distributing and mixing those technologies with other passive methods and think about what is the real sustainability. For example, we will incorporate an active and passive solar system, and recycle and harvest water for radiant flooring, drip irrigation, and the greenhouse evaporative cooling technology. In order to achieve our goal, we have focused our technological research on the following topics.


Building envelope and passive solar system


In order to utilize the passive solar system, which uses 90% less energy for heating and cooling compared to existing building and archives 75% overall energy savings, we have carefully considered the layout of the house. The west side of the house is composed of a long POLLI-Brick™ wall that will act as a thermal mass, which will absorb heat during the day that will be released at night when it is colder. We deal with issues of overheating with strategies such as careful placement of windows.

Water Harvesting and Usage


Taiwan is hit by an average of 3.7 typhoons per year and these storms can produce heavy rainfall and strong winds, leading to severe damage to agriculture and industry, and serious loss of human life. In order to conserve resources and act environmentally, we will harvest rain water in a subunit water tank close to the roof. This reservoir will be used
not only as part of the cooling system as mentioned above, but also as a source of water for the various plants in the house. We have looked into drip irrigation as the most efficient use of our resources for watering the vegetation. Not only is drip irrigation 20-40% more efficient than traditional sprinkler methods, but also it maintains a more suitable balance of air and water in the soil for optimal plant growth.
Temperature controlling space – Green Core


Team Unicode creates three keywords of the Orchid House Project, the first one is “Green Core.” The green core serves as the heart of the house, where it moderates the temperature, exchange fresh air and using recycling system for irrigation of plants. Besides, it will minimize the energy consumption for cooling and heating the living space. Using evaporative cooling strategy which is inspired by the orchid growers and green plants of Taiwan, the house will remain cool on the inside even during hot summer days. Hot air will enter the house through louvers that cover the indoor water subunit, called “water wall”, which collects and uses rain water to cool down the air with evaporation. The cool air is then drawn through the house by several large, silent fans stationed at the opposite end of the house. On the other hand, during the winter, the louvers will be closed to prevent frigid air from entering the Orchid House. Additionally, the main water unit, which is heated using solar energy, will provide hot water that will circulate under the floorboards to radiate heat. Our choice of POLLI-Brick™, which is made by the recycled plastic bottles, is filled with water and act as thermal mass, which absorbs heat during the day, and release radiant heat at night. It will also be invaluable to providing heat through passive solar methods.
The Strategy of Blue


Large cosmopolitan urban areas such as the nation’s capital city, Taipei, have limited usable land, and extremely high population densities when comparing with others. The majority of the Taipei population live in 4-5 story apartments and row houses, which compose nearly 48.29% of the rooftops in Taipei. These rooftops are our opportunity to establish urban regeneration, with solar power. Therefore, we target to use Orchid House not only for regenerating the new urban skyline but also recycling the water for irrigation system. We aim to improve the current Taipei roof aesthetic and create a new social space for living.
The Power House


We consider our scheme towards developing an engine for initiating social influences in several aspects – a network of social spaces, housing renewal, housing issues for the younger generation, and an overall green approach for such execution. Therefore, the Orchid House choose to tackle SDE’s sustainability agenda by embracing the mission to revitalize not merely the housing supply strategy but also a sustainable social impacts by offering the future generation a new possibility. In other words, we aspires to offer an innovative strategy that provides the hard ware as well as the vital momentum for continuing social changes.


Lighting system


Lighting design will be an integral element of the house and its energy system. Taiwan is currently one of the largest manufacturers of LED in the world and NCTU’s research institute is also taking part of the industry. We will use the most efficient light source on the market and integrate all lighting with the house sensor system to monitor the room for brightness, comfort, and temperature. Our electrical lighting will work with the mechanical system to increase system efficiency. All the heat generated by the light source will be paired with the performance of air delivery systems to avoid wasting heat by lighting source.


PV system


Among many companies we have researched, we have noticed the innovative work of a Taiwanese company called the Delta Group. An offshoot company, Delta, is a leading PV manufacturer in the global industry, products have cell efficiencies ranging from 18% to 20%, which allows the Orchid House to harvest more energy using less material. Our design team is working closely with their research team to develop the most efficient PV system for the house. We plan not only to use the PV system as a power generator, but also as a key element for the architectural aesthetic.

All Rights Reserved. NCTU UNICODE Team, Project Orchid House, for Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. Authorship of the articles, documents, photographs, videos and presentations found on this site are belong to their corresponding creators, if not mentioned otherwise.
NCTU UNICODE Team is a project team composed of faculty and students mainly from the Graduate Institute of Architecture, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.