A new concept in concrete homebuilding makes its debut at the U.S. Department of Energy's fifth annual Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23–Oct. 2. The competition, which challenges 20 college teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses, includes a self-sustaining precast concrete home for the first time.
The house, called eNJoy: A Generation Home, was designed by Team New Jersey, including students and faculty from The State University of New Jersey (Rutgers) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Insulated precast provided architectural flexibility, passive solar properties to reduce heating and cooling costs, and a low-maintenance building envelope. The walls, floors, and inverted hip roof are all made with ThiN-Wall insulated precast panels.
Millville, N.J.-based Northeast Precast, a licensed producer of the panels, worked with accessory supplier A.L. Patterson Inc. and its affiliate, Nycon Corp., to produce more than 30 panels, none of which are the same shape, size, or weight.
The structure was built on the NJIT campus and will be moved to the New Jersey shore after the Solar Decathlon. A.L. Patterson created a custom lifting mechanism that would provide support during transit without affecting the panels' thermal performance.
The Quick-Lift Zero system consists of three-parts: two side wings cast into the panels' exterior and interior wythes, and a reusable center lifting plate. The plate bolts into the wings and is removed after the panel is set into place, eliminating the thermal bridge.
With 3 to 4 inches of concrete surrounding a foam-insulated core, the panels have little room for reinforcement. Nycon's polyvinyl alcohol fibers provided a solution. A micro-fiber (RSC15) adds crack resistance during production and curing, and toughness; and a macro-fiber (RF4000) increases modulus of rupture and post-crack strength. The fibers will reinforce the concrete long after the competition ends.