CHIP – SCI-Arc – Solar Decathlon

We are heading back to the 2011 Solar Decathlon to showcase CHIP a collaborated design by Sci – Arc and Caltech.  The project itself is amazingly designed and focused much more on creating a Net-Zero home of the future.  The project placed very well in the competition and we highly suggest you check out their site after the jump!

SCHOOL: Sci-ARC & Caltech
COURSE: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon /
YEAR: 2011

CHIP is a prefab, net-zero solar-powered house designed and built by a student-run team from two Southern California schools: Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The house is the team’s entry for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition.

CHIP (which stands for “Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype”) is designed to challenge every architectural and engineering preconception regarding the net-zero-energy home. CHIP is the result of a 2-year research, design, and construction collaboration between both schools and various consultants. CHIP announces a new generation of energy-efficient, affordable housing.

The 750 sq.ft. plan consists of five platforms. Each platform is assigned a program. The platforms further south are more public spaces while the upper levels to the north are more private.

Each program platform is an open space served by adjacent “poché” walls running along the east and west sides of the interior. All mechanical accoutrements are situated along the western poché wall while the east is composed of dynamic reconfigurable furniture and storage elements.

CHIP’s shape begins as a primitive box, which is then faceted in several dimensions. The first facet negotiates between an optimal roof angle for year-round solar energy collection, and a comfortable, vaulted interior space. Further faceting of the primitive shrinks and torques the plan to minimize the building’s footprint on the exterior, while accommodating the programmatic needs of the occupant on the interior.

CHIP uses conventional and affordable Type-V (light wood) framing methods, yet is able produce unconventional angles and a dynamic architectural space within. The majority of the framing components do not require any compound angle cuts, thus ensuring the structure can be produced by a typical wood house framer, eliminating the need for specialized skills. Engineered wood was used along the module splits instead of steel to reinforce the edges of the modules. Engineered wood is stronger and more sustainable than lumber, but can be handled in the same way.

CHIP turns the conventional wall assembly inside out. A soft fabric exterior expresses the character of a thick insulation layer that helps CHIP conserve energy. This inversion results in a counter intuitive, yet surprisingly plausible and affordable design. While the unconventional exterior may seem unique for a house, it is created through the use of the most standard of construction materials. The soft skin is seamed as a whole and attached from top to bottom. The use of the skin eliminates the need for the complicated waterproofing systems found in conventional building envelopes. Like a sock the fabric is unrolled and stretched around the insulated frame.”

The rest of the project is on their website and well worth your time to check it out!

All Text and Images via


One thought on “CHIP – SCI-Arc – Solar Decathlon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s