During my senior year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) earlier in the year, I was tasked with designing a net-zero energy house for the Solar Decathlon competition. The OCULUS house, as we named it, was designed over the last two years by several WPI students and several partnering universities in Africa. During this summer, my student team and I were fortunate to fly out to help build our design in the deserts of Morocco.
Our team at WPI primarily focused on the design of the building mechanical systems. To minimize footprint, simplify MEP systems, and allow for rapid installation, we designed a central modular unit which contains the HVAC, plumbing, lighting and electrical systems. Due to the unorthodox nature of the house, every component had to be individually designed and follow the guidelines of prescriptive codes ended up being a challenge. Ultimately, this ground-up approach has made me acutely familiar with building systems and given me a unique perspective when approaching any new design that I put forth into real world projects, now at Team Engineering. I guess you could say, that in this case, the best way to think outside the box was to build a dome.