The concept, Expanding Horizons, is most clearly illustrated in the long horizontal orientation of the house accented by the louvers which mimics the horizon of the Missouri landscape. Beyond being an architectural feature, the louvers are a part of the overarching passive solar design and provide shelter from the sun’s heat during the summer while allowing lower-angled sunlight to pass through and heat the space during the winter.

From the beginning the house was designed to be fully ADA compliant through the use of lowered counter heights, and a generally open floor plant. The North wall is dominated by cabinets made of Kirei board (a composite material made from reclaimed compressed sorghum and no-formaldehyde-added adhesives). The interior features a soffit along the East, West and North walls that was designed to house native plants that are watered by the integrated automation system.

Engineered Systems

Expanding Horizons is also demonstrated in the technology within the house. The automation system was the most advanced of its kind at the time of installation and truly expands the horizons of what is possible in smart home technology. The focus when designing the Chameleon Home Automation System was to design a system that was capable of adapting to changing environmental conditions and occupant input to govern the indoor conditions of the building all while using less power than less sophisticated systems. Through two touchscreen control interfaces as well as the television and a two-way mirror screen in the bathroom, the occupant is constantly aware of the changing environmental conditions.

The house features 40, 200 Watt BP mono-crystalline solar panels for a total peak generation capability of 8kW. While 8kW is small for a typical home, the house was specifically designed to reduce electrical consumption. LED lighting was featured in the CREE 6” recessed fixtures throughout the house, the LED strip up-lighting bordering the interior, and the recycled glass features in the living/kitchen/dining area. All appliances bear the Energy Star label as recognition of their lowered energy consumption over conventional units. The washer and dryer were fully integrated in the automation system via a unique partnership with Whirlpool. The automation system is able to schedule the washer, dryer and dishwasher to run during times of peak electricity production.

The sun is also used to heat hot water and the radiant floor heating system through the use of evacuated tube collectors. Two 20 tube Apricus solar thermal collector manifolds combine to provide all hot water heating for the house. Hot water is stored in a 108-gallon, triple insulated water tank to ensure that minimal energy is lost which decreases the chances that the backup, instantaneous hot water heater will need to be used.

The Watts manufactured pump board serves the radiant floor heating system in the house which is divided into two zones (main living space and bathroom). The space is heating by circulating heating fluid through PEX-Al-PEX tubing beneath the floor surface. Tubing in the main living space was installed into a warm-board sub-floor system which includes an aluminum conductor sheet to ensure that the heat is uniformly distributed to the living space.

Used for cooling and emergency heating, a Trane XL20i air-source heat pump was chosen. This heat pump was selected because it is extremely energy efficient (up to 19 SEER) and features a dual compressor design to minimize energy usage as well as equipment wear-and-tear. A heat recovery ventilator was installed to help pre-heat/pre-cool the incoming air charge to reduce the load in the air-handler. A Trane Effects electrostatic filter unit was selected to provide high levels of filtration for high indoor air quality.