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Bracketed on either end by window/door walls, First Light’s center spline is a well-insulated, triple-paned (and shadable) skylight. All lighting is LED.


Tucked in a corner nook are clever, space saving bunk beds. The couch pulls out and the upper level platform serves as a bed for visiting families with kids.


 


First Light took third in the overall category, plus third in market appeal. It was also among seven competitors achieving net-zero energy use, despite having one of the smaller PV systems on site (6.3 kW). Estimated construction costs of about $303,000 were neither in the affordable range nor overly expensive.


New Zealand was a first-time Decathlon V competitor, and the first project ever selected from the southern hemisphere. The team and the six prefabricated modules containing First Light traveled farthest of any competitor: 8,750 miles from New Zealand to the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.


Surmising that few Decathalon V visitors had ever been to New Zealand, the First Light brochure was as much about anthropology, geography and history as the home itself. The entire country has a population of a little more than 4 million.


The one-bedroom, 800-sq.-ft. home incorporated some familiar details, such as grey-tinted UV-filtering triple-pane, argon filled windows. It also sports features less familiar, including 10 inches of recycled sheep’s wool insulation (lamb was on the dinner menu, too), and a clothes-drying cupboard that uses a heat exchanger. The team claims that these air-and hot-water-filled rails dry clothes as quickly and more efficiently than many tumbling clothes dryers.


The design also looks a little similar to at least one other Decathlon entry—the one from Maryland. The shed-like structures link to a north-south skylight axis, reminiscent of Maryland’s split-butterfly plan.


 


GREEN FEATURES
> Modular Design. Six prefabricated outbuilding modules connect to form the home.
> PV Panels. The 6.3 kW system has 28 polycrystalline panels. It was one of the smallest systems to achieve net-zero-energy use, yet it’s the same size as many others in the competition.
> Solar Hot Water. 40 evacuated-tube solar collectors provide all the home’s hot water.
> Drying Cupboard. This innovative system quickly dries hanging clothing by pumping solar heated water through a heat exchanger, which heats the air inside the cabinet.
> Wool Insulation. This house wears wooly underwear, so to speak. Insulation is made from recycled sheep’s wool, which is now considered a waste by product of the meat industry.


35 www.greenbuildermag.com 01.2012

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