LUMENHAUS powers up in Millenium Park
Photos: Michael Leyden
LUMENHAUS, meaning "the power of light", is a solar-powered home designed by Virginia Tech students that generates more power than it uses on an annual basis. It was one of two American entries in the 2010 Solar Decathalon Europe competition in Madrid, and is on display in Millennium Park through November 20.
Set up on the south Chase Promenade, just above the Art Institute, LUMENHAUS is a sleek and efficient space that combines form and function to their extremes. Imagine if Apple designed an RV, and you'll come close to describing the feel of the structure. Small, but open and comfortable, the house has low decks and reflecting pools on three sides. Unfortunately, the plant life meant to grow in the pools couldn't make the trip to Chicago on the interstate, but its the thought that counts.
LUMENHAUS is designed to respond to changes in temperature and environment, which it does through sliding polycarbonate insulation panels filled with aerogel, creating strong insulation while allowing a soft natural light into the space. They move to create appropriate amounts of sun control, cross ventilation, lighting, and privacy. A stretched fabric ceiling provides enough light at night with dim flourescent and LED lighting, and no electric light is ever required when the sun is up. The roof collects rain water, which is then filtered and used for drinking and for the water plants. The entire system is monitored and controlled by an iPad and iPhone interface that allocates energy to different areas of the system at different times.
Feel free to check out LUMENHAUS anytime during the day through November 20. The students and volunteers are helpful and knowledgeable. Also, don't hesitate to go after nightfall. The bluish glow in the park is pretty cool, and it's warm and toasty inside, too.