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

Solar Decathlon 2013

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Team website: solarhouse.mst.edu

Missouri University of Science and Technology designed Chameleon House for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 to epitomize an adaptable living environment. With versatile features that form a chameleon skin—and spaces designed to maximize flexibility, comfort, and convenience—the Chameleon House flexes easily to meet as many market and regional needs as possible.

Design Philosophy

Chameleon House rejects a paradigm of technology for technology's sake. Instead, its creators were guided by the belief that technology is important only to the extent that it significantly enhances a user's experience. The design avoids unnecessary complexity in favor of a simple approach that uses seamless engineering of systems to prove that sustainable living can be easy and enjoyable. Chameleon House continuously adapts to its surrounding environment and integrates multiple technologies to maximize comfort and flexibility.


  • Seasonally transitional exterior siding panels alternate between a light, reflective side and a dark, absorptive side.
  • A south-facing solarium expands the floor plan to an outdoor living space.
  • Folding glass doors separate the solarium from the kitchen and dining area—not only regulating the space but also serving as a passive solar feature and buffer to the outside environment.
  • A partition wall separates the bedroom and main living area—or can be rolled into a closet to create additional space.


  • The prominent photovoltaic system is optimized for flat roofs and uses reflectors between the rows of panels to increase total energy production.
  • A mixed-mode residential HVAC system marries the automation system and the house HVAC system.
  • A radiant heating system with tubes beneath the concrete floor circulates water to heat the interior space from the bottom up.
  • A predictive-control home automation system uses weather data to predict hour-by-hour temperatures and adjust accordingly.

Market Strategy

Marketed to tech-savvy and budget-conscious young professionals interested in reducing their carbon footprint, Chameleon House found its target market when its design team became excited by the idea of living in such a house. The house has a modern aesthetic to engage recent college graduates and supports activities ranging from quite working to gatherings for family, friends, and neighbors.

What's Next

After the Solar Decathlon, the Chameleon House will return to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where it will be reconstructed as the beginning of the second "solar village" on campus. Initially, Chameleon House will be used for research by the team and the university at large. After, it will transition to its final role as housing for sustainability-minded students and faculty.

Like the university's past Solar Decathlon houses (from 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009), Chameleon House will continue to serve as a research tool while being occupied. Students selected to live in the houses agree to provide tours and community outreach, commit to live sustainably, and make the house available for sustainable technology research.


Emily Vandivert
Phone: 660-853-1484

Photo of members of the Missouri University of Science  and Technology Solar Decathlon 2013 team standing in front of a solar-powered  house. Enlarge image

The Missouri University of Science and Technology Solar Decathlon 2013 team (Courtesy of the Missouri University of Science and Technology Solar Decathlon 2013 team)

The Missouri University of Science and Technology audiovisual presentation

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