Soft House

Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA), a firm founded by associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Sheila Kennedy, is working on a project called the ”Soft House”. KVA Matx’s Soft House uses curtains and textiles for energy harvesting, electricity generating, and distributing materials, capable of supplying over 50% of a household’s energy needs by generating up to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity. The Soft House is not only energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, but also provides an adaptable living and working space.

“The Soft House takes its name from the soft path, the concept of many different sources of energy in a distributed system working together. It’s an idea authored by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and it dates back to the 1970s. We asked ourselves how we could design a prefabricated house that could be affordable and that could have a point-of-purchase alternative energy system that a homeowner could tailor to her or his own energy needs and budget,” explains Sheila Kennedy.

By developing prototypes of energy harvesting textiles for the Vitra Design Museum, KVA Matx presented their hybrid energy solution which provides renewable DC power for various work tools. The concept is based on existing material possibilities of organic photovoltaic (OPV) nanotechnology.

The Soft House will provide fluidic, adaptable space that can be adjusted to its owner’s changing needs. The curtains along the house’s perimeter can be moved or lowered so that a room is instantly created or removed. In accordance with the time of day and weather conditions, it is possible to move the curtains so that the house is enveloped by an insulating air layer. In addition, folding the central curtain upward transforms it into a suspended chandelier.

“A homeowner would be paying less money for electrical services because the Soft House allows a homeowner to take a number of different energy consumption applications off grid, particularly those that have to do with portable work media: laptop computers, digital cameras, PDAs. These pieces of equipment that everyone uses do consume energy and they’re very well suited for the DC ring, a direct current ring, which is the new hybrid distribution system that’s proposed in the Soft House,” says Kennedy.

Eventually, the fortunate house owner will be able to customize the energy density of the textiles according to his/her specific needs by using parametric design software that was developed especially for this project.

TFOT recently covered “Pebble” – a solar food heater designed to operate by using spray-on solar cells, a cutting edge technology currently under development, as well as the innovative Solar Tree project which absorbs solar energy during the day and emits light during the nighttime. TFOT also reported on the discovery of a new crystalline material called nano flakes, which are more efficient than solar panels, converting almost twice the amount of solar energy into electricity.

More information on the Soft House project can be found at KVA Matx’s website.

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