May 11, 2010

Midwest Biopolymers & Biocomposites Workshop


Mikesch Muecke

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Iowa State University's Entry into the Solar Decathlon Competition

This presentation traces the research process for several materials that were developed for Iowa State University’s entry into the Solar Decathlon competition which took place in Washington, DC in the Fall of 2009. The biennial Solar Decathlon event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and offers an international venue for institutional development and the public education of sustainable building practices. Every other year twenty international schools transport exclusively solar-powered houses from their respective home base, mostly in the United States but also Spain, Puerto Rico, and Germany, to Washington, D.C. along with teams of students with the intent to showcase new ideas and products related to environmental design. Progress in this regard is in no way limited to the deployment of photovoltaic panels, but addresses a holistic shift towards sustainable responsibility and emerging markets.

Our entry in the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition, the Interlock House, engaged sustainability through several venues such as the use of building products adapted from other industries and from biorenewable materials. One of our intentions for the project was to develop and market alternative materials research and to communicate this to the public at the competition. The demand for comprehensive environmental design required us to work fundamentally in an interdisciplinary mode that combined students and faculty from five colleges, eleven departments, and a host of industry specialists and consultants for the duration of the two-year project.

This presentation covers several materials that were developed by faculty and student members of the Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team. Specifically, I will trace the successes and failures of working with zein, in both a foamed version that we planned to use for insulation of the Interlock house and as a hard, translucent sheet that we used as a light shield in several lamps designed for the competition. The presentation concludes with a reflection on potential future uses of biobased materials in the architectural field.


Mikesch Muecke

Mikesch Muecke

Associate Professor

Department of Architecture

Iowa State University

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