CU's Winning Solar Home Team Enters 2005 Competition With 'Petroleum Alternative' System

Published: March 14, 2005

Editor's note: Reporters and photographers can watch the CU Solar Decathlon team as it builds about 20 Bio-SIP wall panels for the solar home. Construction is scheduled for March 21 or March 22 at the CU Distribution Center, 3300 Walnut St. in Boulder. Call Professor Julee Herdt or student project manager Jeff Lyng for specific times and details.

Looking to defend its 2002 title, the University of Colorado's Solar Decathlon team is developing a new building system from curbside wastepaper and soy for the U.S. Department of Energy's second solar home competition in fall 2005.

The patented structural insulated panel system, called Bio-SIPS, is based on CU Professor Julee Herdt's work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis. Made from cellulose waste and foam insulation, Bio-SIPS will be demonstrated for the first time at the 2005 competition.

CU is one of 20 university teams selected to compete in the international competition to design, build and operate a solar-powered home on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The 2005 Solar Decathlon, which will be held Oct. 6-15, is co-sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, American Institute of Architects and Home Depot.

About 30 undergraduate and graduate architecture and engineering students are collaborating on the project with CU faculty members Herdt of architecture and Michael Brandemuehl of engineering serving as advisers.

The CU home will be built from strong, durable construction alternatives to petroleum-based building materials. These include building materials made from recycled wood, paper and agricultural byproducts. Building materials for the CU house read like a health food menu and include soy, wheat, corn, flax, sunflower, canola, coconut and coffee, to name a few.

The home will be an affordable, modular "green alternative" that is competitively priced and easy to erect with current construction tools and standard building methods, Herdt said. The cost-efficient home will use solar energy for heating, cooling, lighting, hot water and all other electrical needs. The home also will power an electric car, which is included as part of the competition.

Construction will get under way during spring break when students are scheduled to build about 20 Bio-SIP wall panels for the 800-square-foot home. Construction will then continue on the factory assembly line of Summit Crest, a modular home company in Berthoud, which will fit the Bio-SIPs onto a steel chassis.

Following factory production, the house will be transported to the parking lot of the Home Depot in Louisville for final construction. The public will be invited to watch, learn and even participate in energy-efficient home construction as the CU team completes the project. The public also will be able to look inside as the house becomes a completely furnished energy-efficient home. The bio-based theme will carry through to the chairs and dishes used in the home.

In September, participating teams from the United States, Canada and Spain will transport their homes to Washington, D.C., where they will construct a solar village on the National Mall. The teams will compete in 10 contests on energy efficiency, renewable technology and the very best in comfortable and beautiful home design.

After the competition, the CU house will be displayed on the Boulder campus for a year before moving permanently to Prospect New Town, a New Urbanist community in Longmont.

For more information about CU's 2005 Solar Decathlon team and how to become a sponsor visit