A fullness of living lightly

Hale Pilihonua, with its long, cylindrical shape, looks like a design out of the space age with a round exterior covered with a combination of louvers, solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels.

Inside, the “net-zero” home features a comfortable living space with bamboo floors, integrated LED lighting and an aquaponics system to cultivate fish and plants.

Its shape is called monocoque — meaning semishell.

“It’s built like a wooden boat or an airplane fuselage,” said David Rockwood, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who is working with the team of students that designed the home.

“We wanted to have a simple, small but flexible space that is at the same time beautiful and allows a fullness of living,” he said.

Hale Pilihonua (translation: house connected to the land) is the creation of students from UH-Manoa, Honolulu Community College and Kapiolani Community College who together make up “Team Hawaii” — one of 20 teams from around the world selected to compete in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon this fall.