Mother Earth Living

Duke Students Build Smart

Engineering students complete the eco-friendly Smart Home.
By Wayne E. Mayer
September/October 2009
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Interdisciplinary teams of students worked to build the Smart Home. Its labs will support research by 40 to 50 students each semester.
Photo By Wayne E. Mayer
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After nearly five years of dreaming, fundraising and building, in 2007 Duke University engineering students completed the Smart Home—a dual dormitory and laboratory designed and built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standards.

The Duke students worked from the ground up to build an interconnected, efficient green building. “We wanted to understand how and where each innovation fits, from caulking to solar panels,” says Barry Myers, senior associate dean of engineering. The 6,000-square-foot dwelling features a variety of high-tech elements.

Green features

• A green roof with drought-tolerant plants insulates the home, and white, standing-seam metal reflects solar heat. 

• Eighteen solar panels produce about 30 percent of the total energy. A solar-thermal unit heats shower and dishwater.

• Trex composite decking was made from recycled plastic bags and sawdust.

• Two outdoor storage containers and six indoor rain barrels provide landscape irrigation and supply toilets, sewage conveyance and a steam washing machine. 

• Low-emissivity, double-paned windows improve efficiency.

• Cembonit walls—prefinished, waterproof and maintenance-free fiber cement board siding—and Tyvek Commercial Wrap eliminate moisture infiltration. 

• Southern yellow pine trim was sustainably harvested from Duke Forest. 

• Programmed lights save energy.

• Icynene, a water-based, nontoxic, spray foam insulation, seals energy leaks. 

• An energy-recovery fresh-air ventilation unit keeps inside air healthy.








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