U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun

Solar Decathlon 2011

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Team website: http://solardecathlon.illinois.edu/privious-competition/

For the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign returns with Re_home, a rapid-response solution for a family affected by natural disaster. The solar-powered Re_ home uses a rapid deployment strategy to offer an immediate and sustainable solution for a family left without a home. By combining good design, smart planning, and low-cost solutions, the Re_ home responds to the physical and emotional needs of impacted families while bringing environmentally aware living to the forefront of a community-led recovery effort.

Design Philosophy

The Re_home is based on the principles of sustainability, flexibility, and ease of construction. The house consists of two modules that can be transported on one trailer for rapid response to disaster situations. The photovoltaic system can be installed flat on the roof prior to shipment. When the house reaches its destination, the panels can be lifted to the optimal angle for sun exposure and used immediately.

The Re_home includes a number of creatively planned interior spaces. A large central living area allows for community gatherings and offers natural lighting and innovative storage spaces. The living room leads to a small flexible space for an office that could transform into bedroom space.


Re_home offers:

  • Photovoltaic panels that act as a shading canopy across the southern face of the house to protect it from overheating

  • Exterior paneling made from 60% rice husks, 22% common salt, and 18% mineral oil that can be personalized with different finishes.


Re_home employs readily available technological solutions for increased efficiency and comfort. These include:

  • A centrally located air-source heat pump with a forced air distribution system to heat and cool the two zones of the living space

  • Conditioning system fans that exchange interior and exterior air while energy is recovered across the heat-pump refrigeration cycle.

Market Strategy

The Re_home is a relief house for a family as a community rebuilds after natural disaster. The team focused on a couple with an infant whose home has been struck by a tornado. Re_home suits a household of this size and offers the flexibility of converting the office space into a bedroom when the infant is older. In addition, the garden space surrounding the exterior allows the family to produce its own food.


Xinlei Wang
1304 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: 217-333-4446

Photo of a group of people wearing matching shirts that say "Re_home." Enlarge image

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Solar Decathlon team (courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Solar Decathlon team).

Illustration of Re_home. Several silhouettes mill about outside. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Re_home (courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Solar Decathlon team).

A video walkthrough of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Solar Decathlon house.

Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, 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.