Construction speeds ahead as students from NJIT and Harbin Institute of Technology hurry to add finishing touches to their collaborative entry in the 2013 China Solar Decathlon Competition, sponsored by the US Department of Energy and China National Energy Agency. Nexus House must be ready for judging by Aug. 2, 2013. Thirteen NJIT alums and current students have been overseas since early July to finish the construction process. The project began two years ago.The house, located in Datong, in the Shanxi Province of China, has been a joint effort which took off last fall, when Harbin students arrived on campus to spend the semester getting to know and work with their NJIT counterparts. The competition will include a total of 23 houses designed by teams representing universities from 14 different countries, including the U.S. For news updates, see Facebook; to see the building process, check Photosynth; for background information including diagrams, visit www.nexushouse2013.com for additional photos check instagram.
The design aimed to create not only a beautiful and comfortable house but one that can produce more energy than it consumes. The house merges contemporary living patterns with the traditional Chinese idea of the courtyard. An innovative construction process was also important. Fifteen sponsor companies donated time and materials, including the China Triumph Engineering Company, Ltd, an NJIT collaborator, that donated a state-of-the-art photovoltaic system and other support.
“We’ve gotten valuable real-world experience,” said recent NJIT alum Matthew Breau, of Newberg, NY, recently via email from China. “We spend our days sourcing construction materials, coordinating deliveries, preparing schedules, and working alongside industry professionals- representing ourselves, our school and our country.”
Professionals have also praised the design and companies have welcomed the opportunity to partner, Breau added. In addition to work, the NJIT team members have spent time visiting cultural sites, especially China’s great old architectural masterpieces as well as recently constructed ones. Sites have included The Great Wall of China; the Yungang Grottoes in Datong; Tiananmen Square; the Forbidden City, CCTV Headquarters and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Park.
Following the end of the competition, Nexus house will be dismantled and transported to the province of Heilongjiang, where it will be rebuilt on the Harbin campus. There it will stand as an educational precedent for sustainable building design practices.
In recent decades, the Chinese landscape has begun a process of urbanization at an unprecedented rate. At the epicenter of this sweeping change are parts of Chinese culture that have been tied to the land for countless generations. Entire towns are undergoing upheaval and relocation into dense urban housing blocks. Under these conditions, the Chinese farmer, for whom the house was designed, can serve as a prototypical subject of urbanization, one who experiences urbanization first hand. The Nexus house design strives to maintain the essential connection to the landscape and understanding of the traditional typology of the Chinese family structure while incorporating new passive techniques to create a sustainable solution.
Participating NJIT College of Architecture and Design (COAD) students and recent alums include architecture majors Breau; Rafael de Carvalho, Newark; Javier Enrique Fuentes, Union; Mohamed G Hanafy, Jersey City; Elvira Hoxha; Daniel Kelly, Middletown, NY; Alex Leonard; Katia Maier; Stephen Polledri; Joseph Solfaro, Holmdel; Jonathan Terrero, Parsippany; Brandon Warshofsky. Interior design students are Leon desLauriers, Glen Ridge; Peter Fritzky, New Milford; and Nora Hamadé, Sparta. More information about interviewing Chinese students is also available upon request. COAD Associate Professor Richard Garber, architect, has organized the project after receiving a $100,000 grant to participate in the competition.