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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.



Reinstall, Monitor and Document Effectiveness and Performance


Danny Samuels, FAIA / Visiting Professor, School of Architecture / Director, Rice Building Workshop.
Nonya Grenader, FAIA / Professor in Practice, School of Architecture/Assoc. Director, Rice Building Workshop.
Brent C. Houchens, PhD / Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Rice University.
David Dewane, Lead Architecture student, Rice University. 
Roque Sanchez, Lead Engineering student, Rice University.
Over 200 architecture and engineering students (undergraduate and graduate) that have contributed (and will continue to participate in) the planning, design, building, re-installation, monitoring, and documenting of the Ze-Row house.
Numerous community partners from the Houston area (engineers, material suppliers, contractors, donors) have contributed their expertise and support.

 ZeROW House
 The ZE-ROW House Team Faculty Advisors: Danny Samuels, Brent Houchens, Nonya Grenader with two of more than 30 students who went to the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C. 
Project Background

In October 2009, a dedicated team from the School of Architecture and the George R. Brown School of Engineering participated in the Solar Decathlon, a design/build competition that gives faculty and students the opportunity to partner with industry leaders in a joint effort to push the envelope of renewable energy at the scale of a single building.

The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, selects 20 universities (international in scope) to design, build, and operate a house run entirely from solar energy. Each team must construct their house and transport it to the National Mall in Washington D.C., where all twenty houses come together to form a “Solar Village.” During the three-week period on the Mall the houses competed with each other in ten performance-based events and then opened for public tours (drawing crowds well over 100,000 people).

The competition and exhibit process was a fulfilling event but the Rice team envisions their design, the Ze-Row house, as a prototype that will be a lasting contribution beyond the competition. Our objective is three fold:

--to re-install the house in a Houston neighborhood with critical need for housing
--to monitor its energy effectiveness over the next year
--to document the house, highlighting the design aspects and levels of performance

For the past twelve years, the School of Architecture, through its Rice Building Workshop (RBW), has been bringing affordable housing to the Third Ward, a vibrant and historic Houston community. The Ze-Row house will add a new level of sustainability to our affordable housing initiatives, suggesting that renewable energy belongs in every neighborhood. Rice faculty and students will work with the future inhabitant to monitor the house and its systems over the next year, and will document the results.

During this collaboration of Rice architecture and engineering departments, with numerous community advisors, we will focus on the sustainable implementation of the Ze-Row House, research into novel and efficient energy conversion systems, and dissemination of knowledge to the Houston and scientific communities. New data acquisition systems have been implemented via a donation from Standard Renewable Energy. Data from these systems, along with solar heating effectiveness will be investigated both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Publications & Outcomes:

Presentation to American Society of Mechanical Engineers Convention, Nov. 2012. 

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