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Harnessing the Sun

Harnessing the Sun

Industrial Design students enrolled in LUX Factor, an advanced design studio taught by Associate Professor Peter Yeadon, spent the fall semester dreaming up interactive design elements featuring photo-luminescent materials. The studio is part of RISD’s cross-disciplinary effort to design a sustainable, solar-powered home for the 2014 Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Versailles, France. Using an environmentally safe, UV light-absorbing compound donated by Performance Indicator, ID majors were charged with creating zero-power lighting concepts for both the interior and exterior of what’s known as the Techstyle Haus – the full-scale prototype the team will build on site in France this summer.

At an interim critique in November, students presented their work to date and gathered feedback from Assistant Professor of Furniture Design Peter Dean, Assistant Professor of Textiles Mary Anne Friel and designer and local fabrication expert Greg Nemes MArch 12. One student team shared its prototype for Ball Wall, an interactive pixel system designed to grace an exterior wall near the front door. It allows visitors to “map their gestures” by spinning an array of low-friction balls treated with the luminescent material and mounted in a wood and metal frame.

Dean likens the project to an Etch-a-Sketch toy, although in this case drawings will be automatically erased each day as the sun recharges the exposed surface of the photo-luminescent balls. Nemes applauded the expandability of the project and encouraged the student designers to consider a more organic shape for the frame.

Another student team proposed a Luminescent Wayfinding Module system to help Solar Decathlon judges and the thousands of visitors expected to attend the competition to navigate the Techstyle Haus. Their circular, aluminum-encased modules are designed to be installed both inside the house and around the grounds, with flush-mounted lights used to highlight points of interest in the design.

Other promising student projects included ambient outdoor lighting that would highlight the structure’s unusual shape, a glowing interior wall activated by touch and a rainwater collection system incorporating photo-luminescent glass holding tanks.

All of the students in Yeadon’s class learned that it is critical to consider how their projects fit into the overall design of the house. Dean pointed out that it’s always best to resolve multiple design problems with a single intervention, and Nemes reminded the class to work closely with project architects when examining possible solutions.

Simone Solondz

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