CU Solar Decathlon Team To Present New Solar Home Design

Published: May 15, 2002

Students at the University of Colorado have redesigned their zero-energy solar home -- Colorado's only entry in the national "Solar Decathlon" contest -- to make it more adaptable to a variety of building sites, construction budgets and homeowner needs.

The team will present its new design to the public on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the Environmental Design Building, Room 134, on the CU-Boulder campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The Solar Decathlon is a national competition in which 14 universities across the country compete to design the best zero-energy solar home. The decathlon comprises 10 different contests ranging from the home's overall design, livability and aesthetic appeal to the quality of lighting, hot water and refrigeration. Contest sponsors include the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Institute of Architects, BP Solar and The Home Depot.

All of the homes are to be assembled on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in late September. CU students will begin construction of their home in June. Construction will take place in the parking lot of The Home Depot store, off U.S. 36 in Louisville.

The CU team has been working on its entry since last summer. The project represents a collaboration between students in the College of Architecture and Planning and the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Students spent the spring semester redesigning their entry and seeking financial support and in-kind donations to meet their estimated budget (including transportation to Washington) of about $350,000. Corporate and individual support is still needed to complete the project.

"After unveiling our first design in December, we decided to make some changes to demonstrate that energy efficient and environmentally sensitive building technologies can be employed cost-effectively in buildings with mass appeal," said engineering student Celeste Leidich.

Architectural design and engineering drawings, computer simulations and a scale model will be presented to the public. Plans for transporting and assembling the house in Washington also will be shown, along with samples of recycled materials that will be used in 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.

Michael Brandemuehl of the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, said one of the team's objectives is to educate people about renewable energy and inspire them to build more energy-efficient houses. Brandemuehl serves as faculty adviser on the project along with Julee Herdt of the College of Architecture and Planning.

"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."

For more information, visit