The Nest Home is designed to prove that a net-zero home can comfortably and reliably meet the needs of a small family. Repurposed materials are incorporated throughout the house in order to improve affordability and refute the notion that the lifecycle of these items end after they have outlasted their intended uses. Three decommissioned shipping containers are set around a central gathering space, creating a deconstructed triangle inspired by the shape of a bird’s nest. This arrangement expands the space to the outdoors and defies the confined feeling of traditional rectangular container building arrangements. The floor plan as a whole promotes togetherness while providing ample room for privacy. Wood siding reclaimed from used shipping pallets covers the exterior of the house. Recycled denim batting is installed in the interior walls, providing plentiful insulation while outperforming traditional fiberglass batting in ratings such as sound dampening, R-value, and fire resistance.
The Nest Home also demonstrates the affordability of sustainable design and smart living through several integrated systems. The greywater system gathers water from showers, non-kitchen sinks, and laundry machines, making it capable of reducing the average family’s water consumption by up to 25% —
converting wastewater to code-compliant source water for toilets and landscaping. The home automation system contributes additional savings by continuously monitoring interior and exterior conditions, then making appropriate and even predictive adjustments to the HVAC system, interior lighting, and windows. Finally, hydroponic gardens provide residents with fresh produce year-round; the system offers potentially unlimited savings as the need to purchase these foods is reduced or even eliminated by the gardens. Everything about the Nest Home is catered toward a family: from its expandability to the systems in place. However, its adaptable nature appeals to many other demographics, such as retirees seeking to downsize.
The Nest Home features a number of innovative and efficient systems that work together to create a comfortable and efficient living environment. The photovoltaic array of 24 PVAC solar panels is designed to power the home and an electric vehicle to provide the family low-cost transportation. This system is unique in that each panel contains a micro-inverter, eliminating the need for the collected power to be sent to a shared inverter before it can be converted to alternating current. This greatly decreases the amount of direct current wiring needed, making the transfer of power from the panels more efficient and protecting the home infrastructure from associated electrical safety hazards while supporting the lifestyle of the family. Roof-mounted solar thermal panels work in tandem with the PVAC array by using energy from the sun to heat water for the family’s use throughout the house, further reducing the home’s overall energy consumption.
The Nest Home is not only attractive and efficient, but also affordable. Rather than using expensive technologies to fill the needs of the residents, existing technology was used in innovative ways to improve overall efficiency. A predictive home automation system uses weather forecasts as well as user preferences to meet the needs of the residents. Automated window controls can be programmed by the user to respond to changing conditions and support the HVAC system in maintaining a comfortable interior climate during any season at the lowest possible energy cost. More energy savings occur as the system automatically turns lights off when the home is empty and utilizes light harvesting technology to dim or brighten lights in real-time as needed.
The resident has control over the entire house remotely from a wireless device, such as a tablet or smartphone. This allows a homeowner to turn lights on before returning home, reset the HVAC thermostat, and even track energy usage.
The Nest Home’s greywater reclamation system treats water from the bathroom sink, shower, and laundry, then sends it throughout the house for reuse. After passing through a series of filters, the treated greywater is clean enough to meet all applicable building codes for use as source water in a garden or hydroponic system. The Nest Home features three hydroponic gardens. The purpose of this system is to capture a large portion of the water that would typically be piped out of the house as waste and utilize it to nourish plants and conserve resources; this is especially important in water-conscious regions such as California. A vertical garden, located on the south side of the home, provides a well-controlled environment to produce fresh foods that can supplement the family’s diet. It consists of three rows of descending PVC pipes that can accommodate food crops such as cherry tomatoes, peppers, and romaine lettuce. A tower garden provides residents a compact way to keep herbs and spices fresh and on-hand for use in the kitchen. Finally, a shade garden is used on the north side of the house to help stabilize the indoor environment while acting as landscaping on the exterior of the home. The shade garden also has the potential to grow more food if the residents wish.
Along with use in gardening, treated greywater can be reused in the home’s plumbing systems to conserve this valuable resource. Toilets alone can account for up to 25% of a household’s total water usage; channeling greywater into the toilets can save residents money and, if implemented throughout water-scarce communities, improves conservation of the natural water supply.
The Nest Home will also feature several “Do-It-Yourself” projects that give new life to repurposed materials. Planter boxes will be made from the portions of shipping pallets that cannot be used as exterior siding, broken dishes will serve as bathroom tile trim, and old wire spools will become furniture that gives the home a rustic feeling. All of these projects can be implemented by homeowners as an example of sustainable design.
Missions And Goals
The Missouri S&T Solar House Design Team challenges the paradigm of the traditional housing market to prove that sustainable living is attainable and appealing. Students design and construct solar-powered homes with the guidance of advisors and professionals, giving team members hands-on experience outside the classroom. With nearly 60 active team members of all backgrounds and disciplines, the team is continually pushing the limits of solar-powered home design.
With this in mind, the Nest Home is built with the needs of a growing family in mind, although the versatility and adaptability of the design allows for anyone to live in the house comfortably and efficiently. The intimate floor plan is conducive to family-friendly arrangements and activities, while the deconstructed geometry of the living space allows occupants to enjoy privacy when they wish. In addition, the main structure can be expanded by adding more containers to the home to provide more space as the family grows. Although designed specifically for a family, the Nest Home easily fits the needs of all. Featuring two bedrooms, greywater recycling, three hydroponic gardens, and a fully-integrated home automation system, comfort and convenience is assured for all stages of family life, from a full nest to an empty nest.