Stories of drought-stricken California have become sadly common, with many citizens forced to slash their water use so severely they’ve let their gardens die. Luckily, innovative architecture is proving that a water-conscious lifestyle doesn’t necessitate giving up your green thumb. Students at the California Polytechnic State University designed and built INhouse, a net-zero prototype home that’s powered by solar and integrates a smart water-recycling system that doesn’t use a drop of potable water to irrigate plants.
Selected as a contender in the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition, INhouse was intelligently designed in response to the climate conditions of coastal California. The state’s hotter-than-usual temperatures inspired one of the most important features of the house: a constructed wetland system that collects all the greywater from the house before filtering and redirecting the recycled water for landscape irrigation.
The contemporary and affordable home also takes advantage of the region’s ample sunlight with passive solar design principles that minimize overheating, and with solar energy collectors, such as conventional photovoltaic panels, solar thermal water collectors, and bifacial panels. A 15-foot glass window wall folds back like an accordion to double the living space, increase access to the outdoors, and usher in greater amounts of natural light.
INHouse was constructed from structural insulated panels, selected for their high R-values and ease of construction. The modular home is set on an east-west axis and comprises public and private wings serviced by an “active core” that contains mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and monitoring systems with a central low-power server that feeds all the built-in sensor data about the house, such as temperature and power use levels, to a smartphone app. The private wing includes a master bedroom and a second bedroom that can be converted into a library or office. The public wing comprises the living room, dining area, and kitchen, and opens out to the 700-square-foot outdoor living space.