New York Institute of Technology’s Open House

A student team from the New York Institute of Technology specified an operable, 40-foot glass wall on the south-facing side of their energy-efficient structure called Open House. They designed and built the edifice for the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition, Oct. 12-20 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The competition challenges 20 university and college teams to create energy-efficient and attractive homes completely powered by the sun.

“The concept of our Open House was to create a versatile, open living space,” says Matthew Moathosian, NYIT architecture student and Open House architecture team leader. “The user can adjust the interior conditions as necessary. We incorporated the glass façade on the south wall that can open up and allow natural breeze into the house.”

The glass wall, in addition to clerestory windows on the north side of the home, provides passive energy savings by cutting down on lighting and heating of the interior, and providing natural ventilation.

“We wanted to manipulate the amount of sunlight coming through the glass wall,” Moathosian says. “So, we designed a 4-foot canopy that blocks the sun when it’s at a higher angle during the summer, but allows the sun to hit the glass when it’s at a lower angle during the winter, heating up the inside.”

The team chose an operable wall from NanaWall Systems Inc. of Mill Valley, Calif. The WD66 system consists of five openings of three panels each using insulating glass units with krypton fill and low-emissivity glass with a Heat Mirror film on tempered glass. The system has an R-value of 6, Moathosian says.

“[We] were able to install the wall ourselves,” Moathosian says. “It’s user friendly, easy to install and adjust.”

An array of solar modules on the roof, as well as thin-film solar modules on the canopy over the south wall, completely powers the home.

The team placed 12th overall in the competition, ranked 6th in the architecture category and 7th in the engineering category. Learn more about the competition at