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Photo of Elementhouse on display at Solar Decathlon 2007 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Enlarge image

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team used computer simulations to determine much of Elementhouse's design elements, including insulation thickness and window placement.
(Credit: Jim Tetro/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Who: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
What: Elementhouse
Energy Biosciences Institute
4110 S. Race St.
Urbana, IL 61802
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Public tours: For tour information, call 312-746-9642.

Solar Decathlon 2007

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Spreading Innovative Ideas

After leaving the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2007, the University of Illinois team headed straight to Chicago with Elementhouse. The house was reconstructed after the competition for the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference at the Chicago Center for Green Technology. It was used for public educational tours at that location for six years.

In 2013, Elementhouse joined its siblings, the Solar Decathlon 2011 Re_home and the Solar Decathlon 2009 Gable House, to greet schoolchildren and world leaders to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. There, the house will serve as office space and a visitor tour destination at the Energy Biosciences Institute, a world leader in sustainable agriculture. In its new location, Elementhouse will continue to educate the public about the benefits of solar energy. 

The University of Illinois team earned first place in both the Market Viability and Comfort Zone contests at Solar Decathlon 2007. Elementhouse introduced several new technologies, such as an automated system that controls temperature and humidity levels inside the house, that impressed competition jurors.

"A lot of ideas that the army of students in the Solar Decathlon have developed provide great resource material for folks," says Ty Newell, an emeritus professor in mechanical science and engineering and one of the faculty advisors for the Illinois team. In fact, he used many of his team's ideas, and even some technologies employed by other teams, while building a solar-powered house called Equinox for his own private residence.