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Computer-generated image of the University of Colorado 2007 Solar Decathlon house.

This conceptual drawing shows the entire house that the University of Colorado team plans to build. The red shipping container in the foreground and the elements of the house that are built around it form the team's "competition module," which will be shipped to Washington, D.C., for the Solar Decathlon.

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Solar Decathlon 2007

University of Colorado at Boulder

Thinking Big While Staying Small

When you're the two-time champion at the Solar Decathlon, you have two ways to go: either try to perfect your previous entry to maximize your winning potential or take another approach altogether. Never ones to take the easy route, the team from the University of Colorado at Boulder is striking out in a new direction, with a focus on creating a marketable house.

"We're looking at it from a broader perspective," says Michael Brandemuehl, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. "We're designing and building a full-size house to make our story more relevant to homeowners as well as the building industry."

Because the Colorado team considers the Solar Decathlon size guidelines too limiting, they've actually designed a much larger house, at 2,100 ft2 (196 m2). To make this work in the competition, the 700-ft2 (65-m2) central core of the house works as a home in its own right and will be built and brought to the competition in October. Decking around the house will demonstrate the outline of the full house.

"We have designed it as a full house, with just a piece that detaches," says Sara Hrynik, who recently graduated with a degree in environmental design.

But for this team, the work is not complete when they return from the Solar Decathlon, because that's when they'll build the remaining 1,400 ft2 (131 m2) of the home, including three more bedrooms, two more baths, a breakfast nook, and additional living space.

On the plus side, though, that plan is also a major source of funding for the team. The enterprising Colorado students have already sold the final structure to the team's primary sponsor, Xcel Energy, which will use it as a permanent facility for research, education, and outreach to both the building industry and the public.

Team Contact

Michael Brandemuehl