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Solar Decathlon 2011

Team Massachusetts: Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell

4D Home

Team Massachusetts designed the New England-inspired 4D Home for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. This solar-powered prototype is an affordable, ultra-efficient house that can adapt to a family's changing needs. The team hopes the 4D Home will serve as a precedent for home builders and designers creating sustainable homes in New England.

Design Philosophy

Team Massachusetts is concerned about the negative consequences of using nonrenewable energy sources for the built environment. Yet using renewable energy for buildings is successful only when baseline energy consumption is minimized through passive strategies. The 4D Home integrates efficient technology and passive strategies without compromising simplicity.


4D Home demonstrates how dynamic interior spaces can make compact living viable for a small family. Features include:

  • An exterior composed of fiber cement board and wood-clad windows

  • Asymmetrical timber trellises that provide seasonal shading and a covered transition to the interior

  • A two-bedroom layout that is easily reconfigured by two sliding partition walls

  • Furniture, decor, and housewares designed and fabricated by student team members.


Team Massachusetts has integrated efficient and easy-to-use technologies into 4D Home. These include:

  • A 28-panel photovoltaic array of monocrystalline silicon cells that are 19.1% efficient

  • Hybrid solar thermal panels mounted behind the photovoltaic modules for efficient heat transfer to the domestic hot water system

  • Blown fiberglass and closed-cell polyurethane spray foam insulation for air tightness

  • A refrigerator that uses less electricity per year than a 60-W lightbulb.

Market Strategy

The 4D Home is a 945-ft2 (88-m2), two-bedroom house for a family of three living in New England. Specifically, the single-family house is designed for a mid-thirties couple with a young child and an annual household income of around $100,000.


Spencer Culhane
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Department of Architecture
621 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 602-677-6388

Photo of a group of people inside a train station. Enlarge image

The members of Team Massachusetts (courtesy of Team Massachusetts).

Illustration of 4D Home. A man and child walk on the deck outside. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of Team Massachusetts' 4D Home (courtesy of Team Massachusetts).

A video walkthrough of Team Massachusetts's Solar Decathlon house.

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