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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017
Group photo of the UC Berkeley/U of Denver team members for Solar Decathlon 2017.

UC Berkeley/U of Denver: University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver

Team website: RISE

The University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver team competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 designed their RISE house specifically for the city of Richmond, California, to support its transition from a city with traditionally suburban neighborhoods to one that is oriented around public transit and community. The team believes an affordable and sustainable housing solution is absolutely necessary, both in Richmond, and beyond. Although you’ll see a single-family unit at Solar Decathlon, ultimately RISE can, well, rise—to include up to three stories and five units of multifamily living. The design focuses on practicality and efficiency, resulting in a flexible floor plan with movable walls and windows that allow ample light into the interior, and roof space for outdoor living. It is also designed to be ultra-energy-efficient, to recycle greywater, and use innovative materials to improve air quality.

Design Philosophy

The team designed RISE for Richmond’s urban infill lots. RISE stands for Residential, Inviting, Stackable, Efficient, and can be used to describe the UC Berkeley/U of Denver’s design philosophy. Ready to scale to Richmond’s rapid, residential urbanization, this house design is community and transit oriented, focused on long-lasting, simple, and affordable infrastructure for the future. The simple but inviting structure includes large glass windows and doors on the south side, and the stepped-back structure and large stairwells promote community interaction. RISE is designed to be scalable and stackable, kind of like children’s blocks. The modular construction means that one, three, or five units can be built on a site, depending on the desired density. In addition, the post and beam structure directs loads through vertical elements, making the stacking process simple and flexible. Finally, RISE is efficient, designed to achieve net-zero energy consumption, to recover and reuse heat that is typically wasted in most houses, and to recycle greywater. The team also designed the house to be constructed efficiently, without specialized labor, so that local workers in Richmond can easily build the units.


    Features and Technologies

    • East and west façades are designed as party walls to simulate use as an urban infill building.
    • The structure is designed to represent the bottom unit of a three-story model.
    • The design features movable inner bedroom walls that include sliding doors, folding queen beds, and spacious cabinetry.
    • The defining feature of RISE is its stacking capability; three units will be able to be stacked for high-density, sustainable, urban expansion. Only one unit will be at the competition, but the team will highlight the full concept in a variety of ways.
    • The house’s south, east, and west façades have a distinctive wave pattern formed by a crafted wooden exterior.
    • The north façade is a green wall of moss that works to sequester carbon and clean the air.
    • Movable walls, folding furniture, and modular cabinetry allow for a versatile floor plan that can change over time to accommodate from two to four occupants.
    • Kitchen counters and tile are made from recycled ceramic materials.
    • The house features wool insulation.


    View the video's text-alternative version

    Market Strategy

    America’s cities, coast to coast, are experiencing housing crises as demand grows and supplies dwindle. The RISE house is designed specifically for low-income families affected by high housing costs in Richmond, California, which is transitioning from a city with traditionally suburban neighborhoods to one oriented around transit and community. At $200,000, a single RISE unit is less expensive than 72% of homes in the city. Whereas this fact is significant, what really increases the affordability of RISE is that five units can fit onto a single lot that traditionally would host just one home. The RISE home’s stacked design and large open roof-deck spaces allows greater density and a lower price point per unit while preserving the open feel of a neighborhood home, which residents both need and desire to build community. Though designed specifically for Richmond, this approach would translate well to other urban centers that currently face a shortage of affordable housing.

    What's Next

    The house is going to Denver Habitat for Humanity, which plans to install RISE on a temporary lot while they prepare a permanent lot for the house. After installation on its permanent lot, RISE will be sold to a family in need. The UC Berkeley/U of Denver team is thrilled that their house will become home to a family in need.


    Sam Durkin

    Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor Energetics Incorporated, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.