"'I'd love to build a house like a tree,' says architect William McDonough of the Charlottesville, Va., firm William McDonough + Partners. And that's what he set out to do here.
The surface of his house, like a leaf, contains a photosynthetic layer that captures sunlight. Unlike today's solar panels, which are often pasted above a roofline, these are woven into the fabric of the exterior. They heat water and generate electricity for the home -- and create oxygen for the atmosphere, to offset carbon produced in other areas of the home.
The appeal of ultrathin, integrated solar panels goes beyond convenience. Today's solar is plain ugly and off-putting to many homeowners, something Mr. McDonough calls the 'potpourri of miscellany stuck on our roofs.' Unseen solar arrays, especially ones that create hot water, will be a 'breakthrough from aesthetic perspective, which is a huge issue,' he says."