In 2007, we embarked on a unique and game-changing collaboration, the Institute for Smart Structures and its first project, the UT Zero House with the No. 1 goal of connecting students with technological advancements (and make some advancements, ourselves).
UT Zero answered, “Can our homes have net zero energy consumption?” It combined the best researchers, engineers and architects in Tennessee to develop, design and build the home of the future.
It showcased innovations in building materials, information technology, solar energy, energy efficiency and home design and featured ways to use sustainable energy resources.
UT Zero demonstrated the exciting possibilities of bringing together material science, engineering and architecture to solve immediate problems and provide revolutionary concepts for new applications. It laid the foundation for the following decade of our work toward more sustainable design.
The first project in our Institute for Smart Structures, which is a collaboration of our college along with the Tickle College of Engineering and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT Zero gave students an opportunity to take a critical look at sustainable design, which means satisfying today’s needs while protecting the future.
Humans consume enormous amounts of energy, and the building sector accounts for a large percentage of it. Climate change and dwindling fossil energy sources give architects the opportunity to look to alternative sources to lower CO2 emissions.
The sun and its energy play a central role and can be used broadly in design and construction. With UT Zero, students, faculty and professionals developed new materials for building envelopes incorporating not only solar PV cells but also energy storage, active thermal insulation, self-cleaning and phototrophic behavior into one material compound as a membrane. Research with UT Zero focused on the integration of material, energy and information flow in the building envelope.