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Computer-generated image of the University of Texas at Austin 2007 Solar Decathlon house.

The University of Texas at Austin home features south-facing windows with louvered screens that block sunlight during the summer, yet allow more warm sunlight inside during the winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

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Solar Decathlon 2007

University of Texas at Austin

Team Web site: http://soa.utexas.edu/solard/

The BLOOM House

This house is about life and its boundless possibilities; it's also about a budding solar way of life. In fact, the name symbolizes a home that "blooms" like a rose under the sun.

"All the houses use solar. We wanted to take the technology out of the house and make people aware of their surroundings," says Russell Krepart, faculty advisor.

The building's "skin" responds to the wind through shutters that allow for enormous flexibility in terms of light, heat, fresh air, and privacy.

While solar collectors on the roof heat water for the home, the excess heat from the hot water system warms a hot tub outside. "The innovation is using a thing of joy like a hot tub as a technical amenity as well—it takes heat out of the system so you don't pay for heating the tub," says student Jack Wingerath.

A 7.6-kW PV system, together with a roof brim, invites people inside the home with its butterfly shape and proudly displays its technology.

Interior materials are both sustainable and Texas-influenced to create an inviting interior. Although the home is high tech, the students used standard materials found in most home improvement stores. "We wanted to take the fear of using the technology out of the system and give people a starting point," says Krepart. "It's technical, but you can do creative things with it."

The struggle is to make the house livable and appeal to the general public and still be efficient, says Krepart. "People don't buy ugly things. The problem we're running into is that Europeans are more advanced as far as energy efficiency. We can get those things here, but we run into a problem with code compliance, etc. So what we've tried to do is be conscious design wise. If it's ugly, people aren't interested no matter how energy efficient."

Team Contact

Samantha Randall
samrandall@mail.utexas.edu