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

Solar Decathlon 2011

Team New York: The City College of New York

Solar Roofpod

Team New York's Solar Roofpod, designed for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, responds to the fact that urban rooftops are largely under-used. Intended for existing mid-rise buildings, the house enables eco-conscious city dwellers to live lightly by producing solar power, cultivating roof gardens, and retaining and recycling storm water.

Design Philosophy

Solar Roofpod adopts a modular, yet customizable, approach to assembly. The one-story penthouse has variable cladding on the 64 poplar wood-framed "building blocks" of the envelope. These building blocks—glazed, opaque, louvered, or screened—can be custom-assembled based on the variables (such as solar orientation, predominant wind direction, preferred view, and interior layout) of each site.


In addition to having a symbiotic relationship with its host building, the Solar Roofpod features:

  • A modular dwelling unit design with components that can be arranged in multiple configurations

  • A rooftop-mounted solar trellis that protects the house from heat gain and is easy to upgrade with new photovoltaic technologies

  • A power and water use indicator to help residents monitor their daily consumption.


The Solar Roofpod features a number of sophisticated technologies. These include:

  • A micro-inverter for each solar panel to optimize system output

  • Solar thermal collectors that distribute the sun's heat through a radiant floor system

  • A thermal storage system that uses paraffin as the phase-change material to reduce the size of the tank by half

  • An energy management and control system designed to ensure comfort and regulate energy consumption.

Market Strategy

The Solar Roofpod is a "penthouse with a purpose," designed to respond to the market for economical new housing in cities. The target market is urbane, ethnically diverse, and progressive singles, couples, and young families. Other urban market segments that could find the Solar Roofpod lifestyle and its considerable utilities savings appealing are empty-nester cosmopolitans and


Christian Volkmann
B. & A. Spitzer School of Architecture
141 Convent Ave.
New York, NY 10031
Phone: 917-388-0774

Collage of headshots of the members of Team New York superimposed on a photo of New York City. Enlarge image

The members of Team New York (courtesy of Team New York).

Illustration of the Solar Roofpod atop a building in New York City. A man stands on the front porch while a man and woman work on the landscaping outside. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of Team New York's Solar Roofpod (courtesy of Team New York).

A video walkthrough of Team New York's Solar Decathlon house.

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