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Solar Decathlon Home is Ready for Competition

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Justin Beach

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

House features several sustainable designs and can operate off the grid

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Countertops made from recycled materials; a water system that recycles shower water; fiber optic cable that helps with interior lighting. After two years of planning, designing and building, a collaborative effort between the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Denver to construct a home is complete.

“It’s honestly surreal. It’s so hard to imagine two years ago when we first started, and now this day actually happening,” says Joan Gibbons, a team member from UC Berkeley. “Standing in the house that we built is the best feeling.”

That home is a sustainable, net-zero 800-square-foot house which also includes an 800-square-foot deck. Beginning today, it will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition against 10 other homes built by student-teams from across the country and Europe. The homes are judged in ten different categories that include architecture, innovation, water and energy usage, and whether the house is capable of being a home.

“I think our house will do really well, I am really proud of everyone who worked on it,” Gibbons says. “It’s so easy during the construction phase to think, ‘oh my god we are so behind and this is terrible.’ But we have had other teams help us and we have helped other teams, so there is a great community out here.”

A team of students from UC Berkeley was accepted into the competition in 2015. They then worked with other students, faculty and professionals on the structure’s concept. Earlier this year they partnered with DU’s Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management to make the home a reality.

The UC Berkeley/University of Denver home features numerous sustainable designs as part of the competition. The house is powered by a solar array and the home stores the energy allowing it to operate off the grid. The kitchen contains appliances that maintains the home’s net-zero energy and the countertops are made from 97 percent recycled materials. The bedrooms have murphy beds and the walls move to allow for an expanded living space. The bathroom has a Grey Water Recycling System that collects bath and shower water, filters, disinfects and recycles it for use in the toilet.

Each of the homes participating in the competition features different designs around sustainability. The competition runs through Sunday, Oct. 15 and is free and open to the public. 

To learn about Eric Holt, the University of Denver assistant professor overseeing students from DU and UC Berkeley in the solar decathlon competition, please click here.