Since 2015, more than 150 architecture and engineering students at Washington University in Saint Louis have toiled away on their entry into Solar Decathlon 2017, a competition that features energy-efficient homes powered by the sun. And while most teams entering this year’s competition turned to more traditional wood or steel as their building material of choice, Team WashU selected precast concrete.
Team WashU’s entry, “CRETE House,” is a 995-square-foot home anchored by six large precast concrete wall panels. The home also features a precast concrete floor and roof. Additionally, NPCA Producer Member Wieser Concrete Products of Roxana, Ill., manufactured a specialized gutter system for CRETE House. The system extends out from the main structure, offering shade support and increasing outdoor living space.
According to Hongxi Yin, associate professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and faculty lead for Team WashU’s entry, precast concrete bolsters CRETE House by providing durability, resilience to extreme weather events and most importantly, sustainability. Plus, thanks to precast’s high thermal mass, the home does not include a traditional HVAC system, relying instead on water coils embedded within the precast panels for indoor thermal environment regulation.
Yin has been very pleased with his students’ work and the support of the precast industry.
“It’s really a team effort,” he said. “Collaboration both within the school and the industry has been huge and the key for success.”
In addition to Wieser Concrete Products, many other precast manufacturers and suppliers have contributed to CRETE House, including:
- Gate Precast
- Dukane Precast
- St. Louis Prestress Inc.
- Lombard Architectural Precast Products Company
- US Formliner/Nawkaw Corp./Reckli
Students at WashU have poured tremendous energy and devotion into their work. The group even created their own rubber molds for the wall panels, helping to give CRETE House its dynamic architectural appeal.
The short-term goal for Team WashU is getting the structure transported to Denver, Colo., and constructed for the October competition. There, the hope is to win the $2 million prize. But the long-term goal is much more ambitious.
“We want to marry traditional building materials with concrete, and we want to people live in a hazard-free, post-hazard-safe house,” Yin said. “We are demonstrating a truly resilient home to the U.S. housing market. We hope this Solar Decathlon effort will trigger the wide adoption of concrete as a primary building material for buildings.
“We think it is the future of residential construction, and this house is a good attempt at making that happen.”
Lead Photo: CRETE House was assembled on Washington University’s North Campus before being transported to Denver for the competition. Photo courtesy of Washington University Solar Decathlon Team, CRETE House.