Solar Houses - Designs from the 2015 Decathlon

01
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INhouse: interactive . intuitive . integrated

Cal Poly student explains how the bifacial solar panel generates electricity from above and below while shading the deck of INhouse
Cal Poly student explains how the bifacial solar panel generates electricity from above and below while shading the deck of INhouse. Photo by Carol Laurie/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (cropped)

Every two years since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) holds an architecture competition for design and engineering students. The 2015 Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park was held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California. Colleges and Universities from around the world team up to present viable prototypes of marketable, sustainable, affordable homes.

Students from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo presented a home they called INhouse.  As students who "learn by doing," these future architects and engineers designed INhouse to be IN—Interactive, Intuitive, and Integrated.

Final team standing overall: 3rd place out of 14 teams.

Features of the INhouse:

  • public wing (dining, patio, entertainment areas) and private wing (bedrooms, studies)
  • folding window-walls in the public areas
  • structural insulated panels (SIPs) used for walls and roof of both wings
  • conventional photovoltaic panels and a system to recycle greywater
  • designed as a coastal California solar home to teach the homeowner about net-zero energy

Learn More:

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-cal-poly.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

02
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Indigo Pine

A computer-generated rendering of Indigo Pine, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Clemson University
A computer-generated rendering of Indigo Pine, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Clemson University. Rendering courtesy of Clemson University Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

Indigo Pine was designed by a team of students from Clemson University in South Carolina. This solar home was designed with "Southern personality" to accommodate the changing needs of a small family.

The most notable feature of Indigo Pine is its method of construction. Like many recent Pritzker Prize winners, the students have streamlined the construction process so anyone, anywhere in the world can build this affordable house quickly. They developed a number-coded prefabricated framing system they call Sim[PLY]. "Similar to mortise-and-tenon construction," the team says, "Sim[PLY] components lock together with a tab-and-slot connection secured by stainless steel zip ties." Materials that can be bought locally, digital plans that can be transferred anywhere, and prefabrication make this a simple solar house that can be built by homeowners anywhere.

Indigo Pine was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 6th place out of 14 teams.

Learn More:

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-clemson.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

03
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ShelteR3 - Respond, Recover, and Resist

Students from Crowder College and Drury University construct their entry, ShelteR3, to the 2015 Solar Decathlon
Students from Crowder College and Drury University construct their entry, ShelteR3, to the 2015 Solar Decathlon. Photo by Joe Simon/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (cropped)

Shelter Cubed was developed jointly by students from two Missouri schools, Crowder Community College in Neosho and Drury University in Springfield. As students from the American midwest, the designers chose to respond to the need for emergency shelters and emergency response centers after natural disasters, particularly the extreme needs of a community after the tornadoes that frequent their localities. R3—Respond, Recover, Resist

Final team standing overall: 8th place out of 14 teams.

Features of the ShelteR3:

  • wind-resistant
  • module design
  • impact-resistant fencing
  • protective "shielding doors" that can be closed during natural disasters

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-crowder-drury.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

04
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EASI House

Solar prototype, EASI House, by students from Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana
Solar prototype, EASI House, by students from Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana. Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Three schools joined forces to design a modular home for New England living, although only one school is based in New England. Western New England University, Universidad Tecnologica de Panama, and Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana developed a simple solar design that can be easily transported in one piece by truck. Of course, this design also made their own onsite construction easier in the desert sun of Southern California!

Final team standing overall: 14th place out of 14 teams. Best score (2nd place) was for Energy Balance.

Features of the EASI House:

  • efficient, affordable, solar, innovation.
  • 680-ft2, two-bedroom, one bath
  • modular and portable
  • 100% solar

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Learn More:

  • Photovoltaics 101
  • Solar Energy Buzzwords

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-mass-central-america.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

05
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The Nest Home

A computer-generated rendering of Nest Home, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Missouri University of Science and Technology
A computer-generated rendering of Nest Home, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Missouri University of Science and Technology. Rendering courtesy of Missouri University of Science and Technology Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

Students from Missouri University of Science and Technology must have been studying the work of Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban, because The Nest Home is constructed with one of Ban's favorite materials—shipping containers. Students repurposed three large shipping containers (view image) and placed them in a triangular "nest" to create their Solar Decathlon prototype.

Final team standing overall: 5th place out of 14 teams.

Features of The Nest Home:

  • Use of repurposed materials (e.g., wood siding from shipping pallets, carpeting from fishing nets, recycled denim insulation, reclaimed ceramic bathroom tile)
  • Greywater reclamation system
  • Hydroponic gardens
  • Design Philosophy: "Three decommissioned shipping containers are set around a central gathering space to create a deconstructed triangle inspired by the shape of a bird's nest."

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Learn More:

Sources: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-missouri-st.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015; Photo of students refurbished shipping containers courtesy of Missouri S&T Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

06
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DURA—Diverse, Urban, Resilient, and Adaptable

A student from New York City College of Technology describes the DURA home prototype to the media
A student from New York City College of Technology describes the DURA home prototype to the media. Photo by Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (cropped)

The students from New York City College of Technology had Hurricane Sandy in mind when they designed DURA.

Features of the DURA:

  • Modular, prefabricated construction
  • Can be stacked four high or elongated with multiple units
  • Standalone or lot ready

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 13th place out of 14 teams.

Learn More:

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-ny-city-tech.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

07
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The Reflect Home from Sacramento

Sacramento State students in a Smart Car in front of their solar prototype called The Reflect
Sacramento State students in a Smart Car in front of their solar prototype called The Reflect. Photo by Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (cropped)

California State University at Sacramento designed a sustainable small home that they hope will reflect the people who choose to live in it. The Sacramento State team soon realized that the task of architecture in not only to develop an exterior style, but also to architecturally build in sustainability features and a flexible interior space. A Smart Car helps, too.

Final team standing overall: 10th place out of 14 teams.

Features of the Reflect Home:

  • Indoor-outdoor living
  • A living wall is functional as a vertical garden
  • Exterior design inspired by California's Craftsman-style bungalows and other small mid-century ranch homes that dot the Sacramento area.
  • Interior rooms can be joined and separated with folding and sliding walls

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-sacramento-state.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 10, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

08
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The SURE (sustainable + resilient) HOUSE

A computer-generated rendering detail of SURE HOUSE, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Stevens Institute of Technology
A computer-generated rendering detail of SURE HOUSE, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Stevens Institute of Technology. Rendering courtesy of Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey has a view of Lower Manhattan and a 2012 memory of Hurricane Sandy. The students here are sensitive to both emergency and climate events, which they know can be the same event. Their goal with the SURE House was to create a new self-sustaining beachfront prototype, a "high-performance, solar-powered house that is armored against extreme weather" but that is "packaged as a comfortable, beautiful shore house."

Final team standing overall: 1st place out of 14 teams (view image of winning team in front of SURE House).

Features of the SURE House:

  • Able to function off the electric grid
  • Passive and active solar collectors

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California. After the event, the SURE House will be re-erected for a New Jersey shore community to use.

Learn More:

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-stevens.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

09
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Alf House

A model prototype of Alf House, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University
A model prototype of Alf House, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University. Model courtesy of Team NY Alfred Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

A quick side view look at this solar prototype, and you'd think it was another simple pleasure designed by Glenn Murcutt.

The two great schools of higher education in Alfred, New York have teamed together to design a rural home they appropriate call the "Alf House." Students from both Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University have the same goals for their home design—efficiency, affordability, and simplicity. It seems that they have been studying the Murcutt way.

Features of the Alf House:

  • Open floor plan with central gathering space
  • Structural insulated panels
  • NanaWall System breaks the wall between outdoor and indoor space

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 11th place out of 14 teams.

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-ny-alfred.html,  U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

10
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Casa Del Sol

A computer-generated rendering of Casa Del Sol, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from University of California, Irvine; Chapman University; Irvine Valley College; and Saddleback College
A computer-generated rendering of Casa Del Sol, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from University of California, Irvine; Chapman University; Irvine Valley College; and Saddleback College. Rendering courtesy of Team Orange County Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

Inspired by their state's flower, the golden poppy, students from Orange County in California designed a drought-resistant home that fits well within its Southern California environment. Perhaps also inspired by Jean Nouvel's Agbar Tower in sunny Spain, Casa Del Sol is outfitted with brise soleils or sun-breaking shades that are movable and adjustable to the heat and glare of the sun, like a flower that opens and closes.

Features of the Casa Del Sol:

  • Adjustable shading
  • Flexible floor plan
  • Water recycling inside and outside

Team Orange is made up of students from the University of California at Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College, and Saddleback College. Their design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 9th place out of 14 teams.

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-orange-county.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

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NexusHaus

A computer-generated rendering of NexusHaus, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany and the University of Texas at Austin
A computer-generated rendering of NexusHaus, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany and the University of Texas at Austin. Rendering courtesy of Texas/Germany Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

The 2015 Solar Decathlon is truly an international event as students from the University of Texas at Austin engaged their partners from the German Technische Universitaet Muenchen in designing some Texas-ready architecture. NexusHaus is a "dog-trot" design common to the American south—two module living spaces separated by an open breezeway.

Final team standing overall: 4th place out of 14 teams.

Features of the NexusHaus:

  • 784 square feet
  • Closed-loop aquaponics system provides self-sustaining food and water for occupants
  • Covered decks and porches integrating exterior spaces with interior spaces
  • A "student-designed home management system" integrating home systems for easier occupant control and monitoring

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-texas-germany.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

12
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GRoW Home

A SUNY University at Buffalo student explains the GRoWlarium, a space in the GRoW Home
A SUNY University at Buffalo student explains the GRoWlarium, a space in the GRoW Home. Photo by Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Garden, Relax, or Work—these are the elements of the GRoW Home. Students from the University of Buffalo in western New York State have designed a residence with the intention of reintroducing the natural world to urban dwellers. The main feature is what they call the Growlarium, a combined greenhouse and solarium.

"The Growlarium, a passively conditioned space," explains the students, "acts as a thermal buffer between the outside environment and the actively conditioned interior space and serves as a greenhouse during the winter."

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 2nd place out of 14 teams.

Learn More:

  • The Benefits Of Using Solar

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-u-at-buffalo.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

13
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Aggie Sol

A computer-generated rendering of Aggie Sol, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from the University of California, Davis
A computer-generated rendering of Aggie Sol, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from the University of California, Davis. Rendering courtesy of UC Davis Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

The American farm worker has a friend in the students from University of California, Davis. The competing Solar Decathlon team developed Aggie Sol to be a transportable, easily constructed, net-zero energy home especially for use by this underrepresented demographic.

Features of the Aggie Sol by UC Davis:

  • Factory-built, two modules designed for north and south site location
  • Butterfly-sloped roof
  • In-line framing uses 10% less lumber than other methods
  • Recycled rainwater and heat exchanges
  • Large common space
  • A special entry near a shower and laundry, what we might call a "mud room" or "garden entry" for the outdoor working resident.

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 7th place out of 14 teams.

Learn More:

  • Solar Power Facts

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-uc-davis.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html

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STILE—Sustainable Technologies Integrated in a Learning Experience

A computer-generated rendering of STILE, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
A computer-generated rendering of STILE, the Solar Decathlon 2015 concept house by students from West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata. Rendering courtesy of West Virginia/Rome Solar Decathlon 2015 team, solardecathlon.gov

Like the student team who designed Nest Home, another team of students, this time from West Virginia University and the University of Roma Tor Vergata, has taken up the idea of repurposing shipping containers for residential housing. This international partnership, however, has merged the containers that may be found abandoned in Appalachia with an iconic piece of architecture from Rome—the arch. The geometric opposition of a rectangular container with a curved arch turns out to be more than a McDonald's-type imitation by these students. Like all good architecture, the design combines functionality with aesthetics, as "The arch combines the concepts of Roman architecture and the landscape of Appalachia while supporting a solar panel array."

Features of the STILE:

  • Separated public and private living spaces
  • It's not quite like Rome's Triumphal Arch of Constantine, but the STILE arch is built for aesthetics and functionality
  • A wall of windows on the southern exposure provides passive solar energy

This design was entered in the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park, held October 8-18, 2015 in Irvine, California.

Final team standing overall: 12th place out of 14 teams.

Learn More:

Source: About the Prototype from the Team Page at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-team-west-virginia-rome.html, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 [accessed October 11, 2015]; final standings accessed October 19, 2015 at www.solardecathlon.gov/2015/competition-scores.html