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

Solar Decathlon 2013

Santa Clara University

Radiant House is driven by three E's: efficiency, economics, and elegance. The house incorporates bamboo and takes it to a new level by using the sustainable material for structural wall and joist systems. Radiant House is an elegant, adaptable, and affordable house with a versatile great room, a large deck and patio area, and clean separation between private and public spaces.

Design Philosophy

Radiant House was guided by the belief that sustainable living can be affordable, appealing, and accessible to everyone. With an open floor plan and ramps leading to and from the house, Radiant House is fully accessible and features spacious rooms and an adaptable floor plan and furnishings.


  • A structural wall and joist system is composed of a blend of standard lumber and bamboo—much of which is in raw, unrefined form to avoid the need for unsustainable treatment.
  • Solar panels are seamlessly integrated into the roof structure using an integrated rail system.
  • A charging station is located at the front of the house to allow homeowners to recharge their electric vehicle with extra power from the solar array.
  • The generous living space features high ceilings and clerestory windows that fill the interior with light and open to allow hot air to rise and escape.


  • The radiant heating and cooling system embedded in the ceiling drywall uses radiant panels to heat the house with hot water or cool the house with cold water—ensuring a uniform environment.
  • The rooftop photovoltaic system incorporates passive cooling below the solar panels to increase their efficiency.
  • As part of the water heating and storage system, a solar thermal panel supplies heat to a tank containing organic phase-change material. This tank is used to maintain the temperature of the domestic hot water system.
  • An application custom-written by the Santa Clara University team monitors the entire house; provides a real-time display of energy performance; and controls the temperature, lights, sliding doors, windows, and blinds.

Market Strategy

Radiant House is targeted to retired couples interested in maintaining an affordable and sustainable lifestyle. The house is flexible, accessible, and complete with low-maintenance features, including weather-resistant siding and decking and drought-resistant plants and foliage. It also features a user-friendly control system that makes it easy to control the lighting and operable windows and patio doors using a tablet or mobile device.

What's Next

After the Solar Decathlon, the Radiant House team planned to install the house on campus alongside its predecessors, the 2007 Ripple House and 2009 Refract House. However, a suitable location could not be found. Therefore, the team is now exploring the possibility of selling the house to a private buyer. Ideally, the team would like:

  • To sell the house to someone who will use it for a nonprofit or charity cause
  • To be able to visit the house in its future home
  • To recoup construction costs.


Jake Gallau
Phone: 408-806-9392

Photo of members of the Santa Clara University Solar  Decathlon 2013 team sitting and standing on a pile of construction materials. Enlarge image

The Santa Clara University Solar Decathlon 2013 team (courtesy of the Santa Clara University Solar Decathlon 2013 team).

The Santa Clara University audiovisual presentation.

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