Team Middlebury College presented one of the most comprehensive, holistic approaches to sustainability that I’ve seen, incorporating environmental, economic, and social responsibility. Their InSite house is a charming, comfortable, and compact family home designed using principles that the team describes as “Five Points of InSiteful Design. Inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points of Modern Architecture,’ these are five universal principles that serve as a guide to local living and can be implemented in every community – from new construction to home improvement.” The principles include living in a walkable community, prioritizing social space, centralizing energy systems, engaging the street, and using local materials.
One especially innovative aspect of Middlebury’s project that demonstrated that the team was mindful of the “big picture” of sustainability was their decision to design and build a house that they shipped cross-country by rail, greatly reducing the carbon footprint associated with truck transport.
The house is pursuing Platinum as a LEED for Homes project.
Solar Decathlon houses cannot be larger than 1,000 square feet, so many of the teams designed houses used large expanses of glass to integrate outdoor and indoor spaces and make their compact houses seem larger. Middlebury’s house was thoughtfully designed to maximize comfort and privacy and minimize energy use in its urban in-fill setting in Middlebury Vermont, which is often very cold in the winter. InSite features a tight and well-insulated thermal enclosure and significantly less, more strategically placed, glass than many of its counterparts.
This comfortable, warm and inviting house was designed for a couple with one child. The high ceiling of the open-plan common area makes it feel more spacious. It provides ample shared space for the living room, dining area, and kitchen.
The practical, functional layout includes two bedrooms that are separated by a shelf-lined hallway for privacy. The team took advantage of every inch of space, including using the thickness of the exterior wall to create a window seat.
The solar array is separate from the house, which is a very clever way of illustrating the relative ease of adding renewable energy to an existing house. The solar panels are visible to anyone passing by the house, fostering ideas for a solar carport, porch, or tool shed. The panels are steeply pitched so that they will normally shed snow, and can easily be cleaned from the ground using a squeegee.