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

Solar Decathlon 2011

Middlebury College


Self-Reliance, Middlebury College's U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 entry, is a two-bedroom, ultra-efficient, 990-ft2 house designed for a family of four. It features a green wall for growing plants, open family living space, and healthy building materials. Its traditional gable, or peaked roof, is a familiar form that holds a 7.2-kW photovoltaic array.

Design Philosophy

By incorporating the best features of the New England farmhouse into a novel design for the 21st century, Middlebury College offers an environmentally responsible house that can compete in the current market. Modern technologies such as energy-monitoring software, high R-value insulation, and triple-paned windows make the traditional form more energy-efficient. In addition, the team considered upfront and lifecycle costs and chose durable, natural materials that have minimal embodied energy and environmental impact.


Self-Reliance is simple, durable, and family-friendly. It reflects New England values and responds to the Northeastern climate. Self-Reliance includes:

  • A gable roof that sheds snow and rain.

  • A green wall in the kitchen and outdoor planters that provide space for growing fresh produce year-round.

  • A kitchen counter peninsula that encourages a communal cooking experience.


Self-Reliance provides a solution to sustainable living through technologies such as:

  • A solar array of 30 panels that can produce 7,930 kWh annually

  • An air-to-air heat exchanger that circulates air through a network of aluminum ducts and feeds the green wall with condensed moisture

  • Triple-paned windows with cork-insulated frames that have an R-value of 7 and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.53, which allows them to provide net heat gain over the course of a year

  • Stack effect ventilation, which pulls in cooler air toward the ground and vents out warmer air from the skylights.

Market Strategy

Designed for a New England family of four, Self-Reliance offers a comfortable space that fosters community. The adjacent kitchen, dining, and living spaces are designed to encourage the family to make dinner, do homework, and play a game together. The efficient use of space reduces the demand for energy and materials.


Addison Godine
Solar Decathlon Team
Harris Farmhouse
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
Phone: 617-922-1399

Photo of a group in matching t-shirts standing around a wall frame. Their shirts say "Self-Reliance." Enlarge image

The Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team (courtesy of the Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team).

Illustration of Self-Reliance in a grassy setting. Several small groups of people stand outside. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of Middlebury College's Self-Reliance (courtesy of the Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team).

A video walkthrough of Middlebury College's Solar Decathlon house.

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