Over 100 architecture, engineering and arts students from CCNY teamed up to build the impressive Solar Roofpod.


With so much recent development, New York City’s rooftops remain one of the most underutilized pieces of real estate. As one Team New York member stated, “Our most abundant energy resource in the sun and our most underutilized urban space is our rooftops.” In fact, there are over 1.6 billion feet of roof space available! Additionally, rooftops provide the perfect resources for self-sufficiency: solar energy, wind, and rain water. The sun’s energy in New York City alone is over twice that needed to power the grid.

What distinguishes House 403 from other design finalists is that it is the only design that is specifically meant for high-density urban centers such as New York. The design incorporates lightweight, durable and renewable materials that utilize photovoltaic technologies. The entrance is constructed of a 9-foot NanaWall, the leader in glass walls for large openings, allowing plenty of light to flood the structure. An additional 9-foot opening to the back encourages dwellers to incorporate the outdoors, and perhaps gardening, into their daily routine.

As the roof pod unit is relatively small with 750 square feet of space, the interior layout also had to be carefully planned. The living space is organized around a centrally enclosed appliance area which is integrated by the cabinets and walls. Special innovations such as a colored light system near water faucets visually indicates water usage to help residents be conscious of their use of resources. Light is also an important factor with plenty of windows allowing the entrance of natural light. The Ornilux windows are coated with a unique UV pattern that is invisible to the human eye but detectable by birds. With over 700,000 bird deaths by windows per year in New York, this feature is especially important in an urban environment!

The team has come a long way since our initial coverage of the project in May 2011. The students were involved in all aspects of the two-year project, from initial concept design to the carpentry of the cabinets. The outcome of their labor is a final prototype that offers a sleek solution to some of the most pressing environmental and economic problems. It also addresses the challenges addressed by New York City’s 2030 sustainability agenda, PlaNYC. With any luck, more green roofs will soon be popping up in the city, changing the way we interact with a hugely underutilized resource and reducing our carbon footprint


The project has taken over two years and included over 100 students and 20 faculty from CUNY. Here, Farah Ahmad, one of the student project leaders, and Professor Volkmann stand in front of the final design.

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