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Solar Carport Design

Overall Design Intentions:


  • Concrete piers support inset steel columns for additional support and durability, also help define existing parking spaces (2 per module)

  • Modular, can be repeated as many times as needed to cover the largest area possible

  • Utilizes W10x26 steel, which is the most cost effective and carries the most weight for the distance required.

  • Total cost is fairly low, with the material cost of each module being $430 for steel and just under $300 for concrete for a single module.

  • Modular nature cheapens overall cost as more are produced, potentially down below $300 per module since formwork and steel could be reused.

  • Utilizes 10 Single Crystal Silicon Panels per module, totalling to 32,000 ft2 of solar panel coverage.

  • Inclined at 7 Degrees above the horizontal, which is ideal for solar capture throughout the day when oriented to the south in Houston.

  • Open nature means wiring can be run between modules indefinitely with a steel backbone to support it, can link easily to garage/charging systems.

Figure 1 - Sun’s path during the Day
Design Challenges and Solutions

Considering that the structure of a solar shade is not what will consistently produce power and money, it is most important for this aspect of the solar design to be as cost efficient as possible. Thus, a single sloped design that can be flipped or rotated is the most reasonable to produce on both a large and small scale. Expansion is also a possibility as electric charging stations and other solar-supported services begin to grow in popularity, which needs to be supported by the structure and is reflected by the open design of the steel in each module. Durability is also a key design factor of solar shade design, with rain, wind, and other environmental hazards causing steel to rust and concrete to erode. To address these, the steel in this design would be galvanized to prevent rusting and the concrete would be mixed with less water than cement to establish a higher level of strength over time. Carport solutions are typically made of two materials, either timber-framed or steel framed with steel usually being the preferred option. Wood has the added benefit of being more workable and overall cheaper to produce, however it is susceptible to unique hazards such as rotting and insects. Wood is also less durable, with any deviation in the wood resulting in a less optimal solar angle. Steel on the other hand is lighter, and much more durable for the initial cost of installation. While more expensive up front, the long term payoffs of steel outweigh this initial cost, especially when compared to the longevity of wood. Overall, many of the unique design challenges posed by creating a solar carport at the University of Houston are addressed in this design, handling many of the major issues that the University would have to consider. From its modular nature to its use of steel and concrete, this solution would not only enable the University to upgrade existing parking facilities but also set the standard for future parking developments on and off campus, as charging stations and other solar applications become much more prevalent in a college setting.

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LEED Certification
Figure 2 - Solar Carport Model

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community, and home projects, LEED provides a framework to create high efficiency, cost saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainable achievement


What Is LEED?


  • Developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC)

  • Includes a rating system for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings

  • Aims to help building owners be environmentally responsible



Rating Systems


LEED has five overarching categories that correspond to the specialties available under the LEED professional program.


  • Green Building Design & Construction

  • Green Interior Design & Construction

  • Green Building Operations & Maintenance

  • Green Neighborhood Development

  • Green Home Design and Construction



Credit System


The credit system allows the allocation of points bases on the potential environmental impact categories based on the EPA’s “Tools for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts (TRACI), as well as the environmental-impact weighting scheme developed by NIST


Certification Levels


Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification 

  •  Certified (40-49 pts)

  • Silver (50-59 pts)

  • Gold (60-79 pts)

  • Platinum (80+ pts)

Guide to LEED Certification


Attached PDFs

  • Commercial

  • Neighborhood Development

  • Homes

  • Volume Supplement

  • Cities & Communities Pilot

  • Attach PDF Guides

  • Certification Fees

  • Certification Deadline



Benefits of Certification

Green Building is cost-effective


  • Upfront investments make properties more valuable, with an average increase of 4%

  • Green Buildings reduce day to day costs. LEED buildings report almost 20% lower maintenance costs

  • Between 2015-2018, LEED-certified buildings in the US alone are estimated to have $1.2 Billion in energy savings


Tax Credits


  • Building Owners are eligible to receive a federal tax credit of up to $1.80 per square foot of certified space


Public Relations


  • Can Boost the image of the building owner and contractor

  • Can help a builder become recognized and respected in the industry


Can Parking Facilities Be Certified?


Earlier in LEED’s history, there were ongoing debate about whether green parking garages/structures could qualify for LEED certification as standalone structures. Unfortunately, it boils down to; parking facilities by themselves cannot qualify for certification under the LEED program, but they can incorporate features that help a building earn certification as a whole


To make things more confusing, after the LEED decision, a new organization and certification arose: The Green Parking Council and Green Garage Certification (recently renamed to Parksmart). So green parking structures can still be certified, just not by LEED

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