Keya Lea

The Solar Roof Pod from City College of New York

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What follows is a conceptual model of a competition house entered in the 2011 Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon challenges university teams from around the world to create efficient, useful, attractive, zero-energy, solar powered homes. The 20 teams in the competition have created models and will construct their houses on the National Mall in the fall of 2011. The models were on display at NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) in Golden, Colorado, this past April 2010. Here’s one of the 20 teams picked for competition with pictures and initial observations.

The Solar Roofpod

The City College of New York has a 2011 Solar Decathlon competition entry of a modular Solar Roof Pod.

Solar Roof Pod Model, January 2011, Photo Credit, U. S. Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon

The beauty of having a competition with entrants from around the world is that a great diversity of urban and rural solutions from a myriad of different environments will be presented.

Being based in the urban environment of New York City where space is a premium, the currently under-utilized rooftop space can become prime real estate with the Solar Roof Pod.


Solar Roof Pod Model, April 2010

Because it is a modular building, the Solar Roof Pod will have the ability to be broken down into a system of smaller sections that can be transported to rooftops by the use of a staircase or elevator.

This is a highly desirable trait for the urban dweller or builder. Imagine gathering 5 good friends and transporting the entire structure up to the rooftop in a weekend.

Thankfully (and to keep those good friends) the City College team plans to use light weight materials in the modular construction.

The Roof Pod has a rectangular floor plan with approximately 1000 square feet.

The conceptual model of the Roof Pod appears to show it facing a southern direction. This would allow the sun to hit the solar panels and allow the passive solar building to receive the maximum amount of solar gain. This would be seemingly advantageous in the winter, but without an overhang or some type of shading system, the summer sun’s heat energy would put quite a lot of strain on the cooling system during the hottest months of summer.



Photovoltaic panels will provide electricity, while solar thermal panels will be used both for hot water and to power the air conditioning system. (That part I’m very curious about.)

There also appears to be some sort of glass-house that extends from a section located on the opposite side of the window wall. Would this be a type of greenhouse on the northern side of the house?

We will have to wait and see how the team constructs the Solar Pod during the 2011 Solar Decathlon.


Back to the 20 teams in the 2011 Solar Decathlon.

The City College of New York’s Solar Pod Website

Solar Roofpod on Facebook / Follow on Twitter @SolarRoofpod

The 2011 Solar Decathlon Main Website solardecathlon.gov


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5 Responses to The Solar Roof Pod from City College of New York

  1. Hillary Brown July 23, 2010 at 5:47 am

    As one of the Team NY faculty advisers, we wish to thank you for your great coverage of our 2011 Decathlon entry! Some of the questions raised in the article are indeed good ones, and we’ve been working at just these concerns since our initial conceptual entry that you review, for example our use of solar thermal, as well as unshaded glazing.

  2. Keya Lea July 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

    The Solar Roof Pod indeed is a promising entrant in the Solar Decathlon. I’m also in the process of planning and building a passive solar addition thus am highly aware of how the integration of different building principles can create a brilliant, comfortable and very efficient building. It is a puzzle indeed! I’m really looking forward to seeing the Decathlon entries when they are built next summer.

  3. David Hampel February 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Because NYC is known for moderating temperatures relative to other venues of the project it might be useful to combine other experiments as well such as algae for fuel, brine shrimp production for tropical fish food, tilapia fish farming and general greenhouse operations. With all of the surface of rooftops in the city already going to waste this could become a boon to restaurant operations as well as all of the deli’s and fast food shops.

  4. Keya Lea February 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Did you mean to say that NYC has moderate temperatures?

    I think both you and the team from City College of New York are looking to see how to best utilize the presently unused roof space. I think the Solar Pod team will try to make the best net-zero building that they can.

    As for your suggestions for the roof – they all include massive amounts of water, such as the tilapia fish farming. Keep in mind that water is very heavy and will cause a lot stress upon the building structure. (My point being that it would be better to have a well-thought out plan. You don’t want to crush the building to have a few fish.) Usable space in an area that has extremely high real estate values, however, would be priceless.) The roof is also an area that receives a lot of sunlight. The sunlight will create a lot of heat – something that any rooftop project will need to deal with.

    If the unusable rooftop spaces could be used to either deal with the waste or supply the city with things that it needs and be economically viable, that would be an immensely valuable undertaking.

  5. Farah February 8, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I’m a member of the Solar Decathlon Team New York, and would like to comment that our project, the Solar Roof Pod, deals with storm water management through an irrigation system, helping prevent further flooding. Co2 sequestration and the mitigation of the heat island effect are also valuable concerns that we address.

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