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FlexSola – Flexible Solar HouseFlexSola is the “green” upgrade of the winning FlexHouse™ design. By applying the mainprinciples of FlexHousing™, adaptability, accessibility and affordability, FlexSola will enable people topurchase and keep their home, rather than move when family or economic conditions change.Each unit can accommodate one or two independent dwellings, so it can function as a single-family home, or as a duplex. In addition, it could be constructed with one, two or three storeys, to suit avariety of needs and budgets. Furthermore, the design incorporates a storage space stacked on eachfloor, for an optional wheelchair elevator. All this unique flexibility, presently not available on the housingmarket, will facilitate stable residencies, and create safe and caring neighbourhoods.From the environmental point of view, FlexSola will require less natural resources and energythan conventional housing. Furthermore, the ecological footprint of the house will be reduced by its greenroof, which will give back to nature a large portion of the land covered by the building. Complemented byan optional greenhouse, the private rooftop will be an outdoor oasis for leisure, pets, or to grow organicfruits and vegetables; a most attractive selling feature for the nature lovers.
FlexSola Type A & B
Sample Front Elevation of 3 two storey + 3 three storey unitsThe FlexSola Type A may be expanded from an initial one storey 728 sq ft unit, to 1456 sq ft twostoreys, or to 2096 sq ft three storeys, with minimum disruptions to the occupants. This is achieved bydesigning the initial flat roof as a future floor, and by using state-of-the-art steel framing and concretetechnology. The staircase to access the roof, the sunroom and the green roof assembly, are all featuresthat may be added later.The facades will be high-tech, appropriate for the twenty-first century. An overhead metalstructure can be erected on the roof terrace, to support solar panels, which can also act as sunshades;they will be installed with optimum orientation for maximum efficiency. The surplus electricity they willproduce will be stored in batteries, or converted to hydrogen, obtained from water through hydrolysis. Theowner will also have the option of selling electricity to the grid. The oxygen, also produced throughhydrolysis, could be sold or used to improve the interior air quality. On cloudy days, a small hydrogenburning generator could be used for back up heat and to produce electricity and pure water.The building will have built-in passive solar heating, with distribution ducts running through theopen floor space. The surplus heat will be stored in the concrete floors and will be supplemented by theradiant floor heating generated through a geo-thermal system. This combination of renewable energysources will provide comfortable and efficient heating and cooling.Technologically advanced materials and systems will be used to create adaptable, comfortableand healthy housing. The use of open lightweight steel joists and suspended ceiling tiles will allow foreasy installation and future modification of the mechanical and electrical systems. A “smart house”computer control system can also be easily installed anytime through the wall and floor spaces. Allinterior partitions will be non-load bearing and may be relocated as desired.The house will require very low maintenance and will not produce any harmful emissions. Byusing non-combustible construction, the house will also have lower fire insurance premiums.
FlexSola Type CFlexSola Type C is a wider unit, which can be developed as townhouse, semi-detached ordetached housing. Depending on site, it can also accommodate an attached garage.Floor Plan Rooftop Terrace
Dual Axis Solar Tracking DeviceOne solar unit has four photovoltaic panels mounted on a metal frame, supported by the roofparapet and elevated above the rooftop terrace. It can produce approx. 1Kw of electricity. The number ofunits required depends on lifestyle and habits, and additional units may be easily added in the future.The author has designed a Dual Axis Solar Tracking Device (DASTD) to support photovoltaicpanels, which can be mounted on the parapet at locations that would not cause shading of the rooftopgarden. The steel pivoting support with counterweight is designed for easy adjustment to solar altitudeand azimuth. The Rooftop Terrace plan shows the appropriate locations when the front is facing south.The number of DASTD’s is subject of the owner’s budget, the electricity to be generated forpersonal consumption or to be sold to the grid. The system has the great advantage of flexibility oflocation and production efficiency over conventional solar panels mounted on pitched roofs.Dual Axis Solar Tracking Device (DASTD)
The sample of FlexSola Type A & C Streetscape illustrates the flexibility of the FlexSola concept.It shows a combination of one, two & three storey type A & C units, in townhouse and semi-detachedconfigureSample of FlexSola Type A & C Streetscape
FlexSola Benefits1. Allows for multi-generational family living2. Making home ownership more affordable3. It can grow in time4. Offers neighbourly security and assistance5. Facilitates home care for seniors6. Provides adaptability of the living space7. It is ideal for people who need two residences, such as “snow birds”8. Provides a private outdoor space on the roof9. Has comfortable radiant floor heating, ideal for seniors10. Eliminates most allergens from interior finishes11. Strengthens community neighbourhood spirit12. Potential rental income13. Ground floor may have a separate office for home business14. Low maintenance requirements16. Potential electricity generation17. Growing fruits and vegetables on the roof18. Reduced insurance premiums due to non-combustible construction19. Saving on CMHC mortgage insurance20. Reduced moving costs21. Longer building life span22. Higher resale valueFollowing are several housing market trends that make FlexSola attractive to a wide range ofbuyers:Aging population: An increasing number of elderly people seek more convenient forms ofhousing that have less space and lower maintenance; housing that can also provide them with outsideassistance. Many homeowners sell their houses and move into apartments or "trendy" one-storeycondominiums. Then, as they become less self-reliant, most move to some form of senior housing that issuitable to their income. Moving is stressful, especially for seniors, but for many it is the only alternativeavailable at the present. FlexSola also offers an ideal home for snowbirds. They can fly south in thewinter without leaving their house vacant.Changes in family lifestyles: As the older generation ages, there is a trend to live with adultchildren, rather than in nursing homes. The grandparents become part of a larger family; they are caredfor and contribute to the wellbeing of all, especially the grandchildren. They can provide free, high qualitychildcare in families where both, or the single parent(s) work.Accommodating people with disabilities: There is growing awareness for the needs of thephysically and mentally challenged. The last few years have brought new building code regulations,active contribution from numerous organizations and broader acceptance by the public. There is a trendtowards integrating people with disabilities into the community. FlexSola offers a unique solution formaking the entire home barrier free, through its stacked storage space, which can accommodate anelevator with minimum disruptions and cost.
Increasing number of self-employed: Due to downsizing, the army of small entrepreneurs isgrowing steadily. To keep overhead costs low, many self-employed are obliged to use part of theirhomes to run their businesses. This is a return to the times when many houses, especially on MainStreet, had a shop at the ground floor with flats above. The increase in communication technologies willallow more people to work from home with TV links to the “virtual office”. This frees up locations so homescould go in the best locations for communities rather than the cheapest place to build.The economic factor: Many people are searching for more affordable housing and new sourcesof income. The affordability of FlexSola is achieved in two ways: firstly, the purchaser can start with aninitial smaller and lower priced unit and expand it later; secondly, the home itself can become a source ofrevenues. Also, due to financial restraints, more families are forced to pull back together. Young adultswho cannot find work have to live with their parents; parents who could not save for retirement have tolive with their children. The rising cost of energy and long term maintenance is becoming anotherdeterminant factor in selecting a home. FlexSola will have much lower maintenance costs. This is due toits high energy conservation standards. And finally, being virtually non-combustible, FlexSola will securelower long term insurance premiums, over a longer lifespan than conventional housing.The social factor: Many social problems, such as crime, juvenile delinquency, child abuse,vandalism, neglect, etc., can be alleviated by creating integrated communities. Staying in one place for along time creates a sense of belonging and caring. Home ownership strengthens urban communities andcan be made affordable with new innovative forms of housing.Urban renewal: There is a growing acceptance today of the fact that society cannot afford to leturban sprawl continue. The environmental, economic and social costs are becoming more and moreevident. New planning ideas and concepts that focus on better management of resources, especially landand infrastructure, are gaining ground. Infill and higher density residential developments work towardspreserving the natural environment and farm land and also revitalizing downtowns. Compact, two/threestorey dwelling units can compete effectively with conventional houses. FlexSola is ideal for creatingeconomically sustainable residential communities.Environmental awareness: The number of people who are environmentally conscious isgrowing rapidly. The trend in home buyers’ expectations is towards sustainable housing. By reducing theneed for energy and natural resources, FlexSola will meet and exceed these expectations.Target Market: FlexSola will break into a housing market, which is thirsty for something new thatwould meet the immediate and long term needs of a growing number of consumers: new home buyers,empty nesters, snow birds, people with special needs, ethnic groups with extended family traditions, etc.First home buyers will have the choice of starting with a small unit and enlarge it later, or partnering andbuying a larger unit. FlexSola could be particularly attractive to seniors and to those who care for them.Each unit can fluctuate between a single family home and a duplex; this allows for independent living.Thanks to its sustainability and reduced footprint on the land, FlexSola will also appeal to theenvironmentally conscious home buyer, not satisfied with the wasteful conventional housing presentlyavailable.Competitive Edge: In view of the survey and trends described above, there is a demonstratedgrowing demand for housing that combines the adaptability, accessibility and affordability of FlexHousingwith healthy housing, energy conservation and low maintenance. FlexSola will offer such housing,presently not available on the market. Most presently available forms of housing have been targeted forspecific types of individuals and families based on age, mobility, income, and so on. Such housing makesit difficult to accommodate changing needs within the same home. Therefore, by providing a muchneeded alternative, FlexSola will have a competitive edge over the competition.
Economic Projections for FlexSola Type ATo assess the economic viability of the FlexSola Type A design, certain assumptions were madebased on current home ownership trends. Based on these assumptions, FlexSola appears to beeconomically viable and attractive compared to other homes currently available on the market. Theeconomic projections indicate that, due to all the potential financial benefits, the initial investment in aFlexSola unit could be recovered in less than twenty years.From the financial point of view, considering that a large percentage of a house’s purchase priceis covered by a mortgage, a conventional home is in fact a liability to the owner, in spite of its long-termequity buildup. In contrast, FlexSola becomes a financial asset from the beginning thanks to therevenues it can generate and the long-term savings on energy and maintenance.The following considerations should appeal to the informed homebuyers and housing providers.All costs indicated are rough estimates based on the information available to the author, and shall beverified and confirmed at the time of construction.The estimated construction cost for a three storey FlexSola Type A unit, of 2096 ft2, is $230,000(excluding land, development charges and other soft costs). Compared with a conventional townhouse ofsimilar size, a FlexSola Type A unit would cost up to $30,000 more, required to provide the followingfeatures:A. FlexHousing™ Design Features (based on award-wining design): $ 1,000B. Green Roof, Terrace & Staircase (to replace a pitched roof): $ 9,000C. Concrete & Steel Structure (to replace wood framing): $ 4,600D. Radiant Floor Heating (to replace conventional forced air heating): $ 3,400E. Solar panels: $12,000Total additional cost: $30,000The above features provide the following corresponding benefits which make FlexSola aneconomically viable and sustainable alternative over conventional townhouses currently available on themarket:A. Adaptability, Accessibility & Affordability features accomplished with the unique design, whichhas won the CMHC national award. Initial affordability is achieved either by starting with a smallerunit (one or two floors), or by using a two or three storey unit as a duplex.B. The green roof saves energy, lowers roof maintenance over the life of the building, andprovides space for growing fruits & vegetables.C. The concrete & steel structure is safe, durable and energy efficient due to thermal mass. Italso extends the life of the building well beyond what is expected from a conventional townhouse.D. The radiant floor heating is most comfortable and energy efficient. It can also be easilyintegrated into a geothermal heating & cooling system.E. The solar panels will produce electricity allowing the owner to take advantage of lucrative feed-in tariff programs.
The additional cost required to construct FlexSola should be considered as a profitableinvestment for achieving the following objectives:1. Improved safety, health & comfort2. Energy efficiency3. Low maintenance4. Revenue generationFollowing is a comparison of projected live-in costs between a Conventional Townhouse and aFlexSola Type A unit using its full revenue-generating potential. It appears that FlexSola will be aprofitable investment and could pay for itself in less than 20 years.Conventional TownhouseMonth Year 10yearsHeating (*): $ 90 $1,080 $12,960Electricity (*): $130 $1,560 $18,720Maintenance (*): $ 80 $ 960 $11,520House insurance (*): $ 70 $ 840 $10,080Moving (**): $ 0 $1,000 $ 2,000Total expenses: $370 $5,440 $55,280FlexSola Type AMonth Year 10yearsHeating (*): $ 30 $ 360 $ 3,600Electricity (*): $ 50 $ 600 $ 7,200Maintenance (*) no roof maintenance required: $ 20 $ 240 $ 2,880House insurance (*) for non-combustible construction: $ 50 $ 600 $ 7,200Moving (**): $ 0 $ 0 $ 0Total expenses: $150 $1,800 $20,880Notes:* These expenses will most likely escalate in the future. 2% per year increase, withoutcompounding, is included in the calculation.** 2 moves over 10 years are included in the calculation.Approximate reduced expenses of FlexSolaType A unit, after 10 years, as compared with aconventional townhouse ($55,280 - $20,880): $34,400
FlexSola Type A potential revenuesMonth Year 10yearsRent (*): $700 $8,400 $100,000Food (*): $100 $1,200 $ 14,000Total Revenue: $800 $9,600 $115,200Approximate net gain of FlexSola Type A unit, after 10 years,as compared with a conventional townhouse ($34,400 +$115,200): $149,600This long-term net gain will make FlexSola a profitable investment to a wide range of homeowners; an investment made affordable through flexibility of choice and initial purchase price, associatedwith flexibility of use and potential revenues. This is a great choice that FlexSola will offer; a choicepresently not available on the market.