Published: July 2, 2021 By

Since 2017, a team of 30 CU Boulder students and faculty has worked to build an all-electric house in one of the coldest towns in the lower 48 states: Fraser, Colorado. They completed the 1,176-square-foot project in April.

The world took notice.

In April 2021, they won first place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Build Challenge, an international competition challenging participants to design and build a functional house that creatively solves real issues within the building industry. In addition to the first-place win, CU took first in three of the 10 judged events — innovation, market potential and architecture.

As high living costs in mountain towns deter potential residents, team leaders Gabi Abello (Engr’20) and Hannah Blake (Engr’20) wanted to tackle energy efficiency and affordability in mountain homes.

With heat pumps, solar panels and an attached rental unit to supplement income, the SPARC house (Sustainability, Performance, Attainability, Resilience and Community) functions at net-positive energy efficiency, even selling solar energy back to the local power grid.

The team is perhaps most proud that the house is now a home to residents Kristen Taddonio and Joe Smyth. “It’s just awesome to be able to wake up in the morning and look out and see mountains and to be here,” Taddonio told CU Boulder Today. “It’s just a dream come true.”


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Photo courtesy CU Boulder