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Photo of thirteen people—each of whom is wearing an orange, green, yellow, or white shirt—sitting on, standing near, and kneeling in front of a large brown statue of a lion. Green trees and foliage are in the background.

The Penn State Solar Decathlon team is made up of 92 active members, who are coordinated by 16 project managers. The 13 shown here sit on the "Lion Shrine," a representation of the university's mascot.

Illustration of a dark brown, rectangular house with a silver-edged, flat roof. Solar panels sit atop the roof at a slight angle. A flat awning, also edged in silver, graces the front of the house above a lengthwise expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows. A light tan deck with a large inset rectangular planter is in the foreground. The planter contains dark red grasses and purple flowers. Hills and sky are in the background.

Penn State's Natural Fusion takes full advantage of the sun with PV panels on the roof, a solar awning with fins coated in PV material, southern windows to capture daylight and warmth in the winter, and clerestory windows above the awning for additional daylighting.

Construction Costs


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Construction Drawings (Zip 59 MB)
Project Manual (Zip 6.2 MB)

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Solar Decathlon 2009

Penn State

Team Web site:

Fusing Form and Function Through Teamwork

Natural Fusion is the holistic integration of elements. That's the theme for the Penn State Solar Decathlon 2009 house. As the team members began working together, they found that reaching their goal required another principle: interdependence. To reach true integration, it was vital that the students exchange knowledge among their multiple disciplines.

The Team

This is the second time that Penn State has participated in the Solar Decathlon. The 2009 team has 92 active members, who are majoring in fields such as architecture, architectural engineering, energy and mineral engineering, public relations, and community development.

Penn State student and team leader Kyle Macht is a veteran of the 2007 Solar Decathlon. He finds himself in a new role for the 2009 event. "In the 2007 competition, I was the jack-of-all-trades," he says. "Now, I'm leading the team. It's all about collaboration so we can integrate our vision and ideals."

The House

The team made a big effort to maximize daylighting and passive solar gain in its design. Clerestory windows and tri-fold doors on the southern façade provide ample daylight throughout the year. When these doors are open to the deck, the living space expands to the outdoors. The collectors used in the solar water heating system mimic the design of the tri-fold doors and function without pumps.

Natural and recycled materials are used throughout the home, including sustainably harvested lumber, reclaimed chalkboards and hardwood flooring, bio-based foams, and paint containing no volatile organic chemicals.

The Technology

Penn State is employing a new technology called Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaics. This approach combines a photovoltaic (PV) system with plants, which help remove heat from the roof. The team is also using a new type of cylindrical, thin-film PV material designed to maximize sunlight collection throughout the day. The 5.1-kW PV system generates electricity to power the house.

House Highlights

  • A Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaics system that uses plants to reduce heat on the roof.
  • A PV system that uses a new type of cylindrical, thin-film PV material
  • A "water bladder" system embedded in the floor that acts as thermal mass and are emptied for transport, which reduces fuel use
  • A southern overhang, which includes a solar awning coated in PV material, that blocks most of the sun in the summer, while allowing sun in during the winter