CU-Boulder Solar Decathlon Team To Unveil Solar Home Design

Published: Dec. 6, 2001

On Dec. 12, the University of Colorado at Boulder's student "Solar Decathlon" team will unveil its design of a model solar home, which will generate enough energy to meet daily household needs and even power an electric vehicle.

The team will present its design at a reception with Paul Farnan, congressional assistant to Congressman Mark Udall, and Richard King, program manager with the U.S. Department of Energy. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the CU Henderson Museum, located on Broadway near 15th Street.

The design is a collaboration between students in the colleges of architecture and engineering and represents the first phase of a national competition on solar technology and renewable energy, dubbed the "Solar Decathlon."

The decathlon comprises 10 contests ranging from the home's overall design, livability and aesthetic appeal to the quality of its lighting, hot water and refrigeration. The competition's sponsors include the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Institute of Architects and BP Solar.

Fourteen universities across the country have entered the decathlon, and all of the model homes are to be assembled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a one-week period next fall. CU-Boulder's entry is the only one from Colorado.

Architectural design and engineering drawings, computer simulations and a scale model will be presented at the unveiling. Plans for transporting and assembling the house in Washington also will be shown, along with samples of recycled materials that are being considered for construction.

The model home, which is required to be less than 800 square feet, includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, office and outside deck.

Representatives of the sustainable design and building industries are invited to attend the event with the public.

The Solar Decathlon team is seeking financial support and in-kind donations of products and services in order to meet its estimated budget (including transportation) of about $400,000.

Faculty adviser Michael Brandemuehl of the civil, environmental and architectural engineering department, said one of the team's objectives is to educate people about renewable energy and inspire them to build more energy-efficient houses.

"The contest provides an opportunity for Colorado and CU to take a leadership role in energy and environmental sustainability," Brandemuehl said. "It's more than just a contest. It's about increasing public awareness and changing the way the building industry and public policy-makers look at energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies."

About 40-50 students from engineering, architecture, business and journalism are currently involved in the project. Architect Richard Epstein, who serves as co-adviser on the project with Julee Herdt from the College of Architecture and Planning, said the collaboration between students of different backgrounds has created a valuable cross-fertilization of ideas during the design process.

For more information on the Solar Decathlon and CU-Boulder's entry, visit Anyone interested in helping to support the project should call Kristin Germain at (303) 492-1146.