Embodied Energetics: A Digital Design-Production System for Passive Solar Walls in Vinalhaven Island, Maine

I propose a digital design-production system to easily assemble, selectively disassemble, and reassemble novel passive solar walls. The problem statement I tackle is that all houses in Vinalhaven Island, Maine have high home-heating energy burden due to their thermally weak thin walls. Substituting thin walls with typical passive solar walls is a known solution, however such walls would be inundated with (i) high embodied energy in non-recoverable materials, (ii) high complexity of construction, and (iii) high cost of construction and renovation. 

Facilitated by a CAD-CAM interface, I develop a methodological framework called Design for Assembly, Disassembly, and Reassembly to lower all three parameters efficiently. I demonstrate both the framework and its outcomes by rapidly prototyping a few study models of passive solar walls. I speculate on the urban implications of a widespread integration of walls with reduced and recoverable material embodied energy. In order to effectively visualize this, the system boundary of urbanism scales up from a wall to a house, to two adjacent houses, and finally to five houses in Vinalhaven's downtown. I claim that successful on-site substitution of today’s standard walls with Digital Passive Solar Walls will accelerate Vinalhaven’s island homes toward a holistic energy transition. 

Broadly, I encourage professionals in the building industry to embrace such digital systems to recover material embodied energy locked in their designed artifacts.

Thesis Advisors: Lawrence Sass, James Wescoat