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

Solar Decathlon 2013

University of Southern California

For the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, the University of Southern California created fluxHome to celebrate the cultural and technological changes of the 21st century. The house combines a transformable envelope system with customizable components and smart-home technology to allow it to be configured in a multitude of lifestyle scenarios. By re-imagining the suburban tract home as a dynamic spatial environment, the house reflects the diverse lifestyles and ecologies known to Southern California.

Design Philosophy

In designing fluxHome, the University of Southern California team focused on developing a truly accessible model for energy-independent, low-cost housing that reflects the best qualities of indoor-outdoor living in Southern California. Celebrating diverse ecologies and microclimates, fluxHome is not only a highly energy-efficient prototype but also a new residential model for the changing nature of contemporary experience that can be rapidly deployed to market.


  • The material palette consists of sustainable and recycled materials.
  • Modular, prefabricated furniture elements combine off-the-shelf components with digital fabrication technology and enable occupants to customize their living space.
  • Retractable skylights, operable windows, light shelves, baffles, and sliding and folding window walls enable occupants to easily regulate their environment and privacy.
  • A centralized courtyard, porch, and veranda contain vertical gardens and living walls to merge the indoors with the outdoors.
  • Vertical gardens and lawns filter the air and allow users to grow their own vegetables and herbs with minimal water via a drip irrigation system.
  • A smart home automation system monitors passive and active energy systems and can be controlled with a mobile device.


  • Light and air are used to improve indoor comfort and integrate complicated automation systems.
  • A compact, efficient building form and rain screen faҫade minimize solar heat gain while maximizing insulation and thermal equilibrium.
  • A solar chimney with a retractable skylight modulates sunlight and air for natural ventilation and daylighting and connects users to the outdoor environment by framing the sky.
  • A combination heat pump system provides heating, cooling, and domestic hot water in one product.
  • Ambient light-emitting diode lighting and daylighting used throughout the house minimize energy loads, while innovative light shelves and window hoods provide shading.

Market Strategy

Targeted to the nuclear family, fluxHome also responds to the changing demographics and lifestyles found in Southern California. As a model for affordable living and sustainable growth, fluxHome combines a simple and efficient plan with prefabricated, mass-customized elements to allow it to be configured in different ways to accommodate various living scenarios.

What's Next

Although the team had originally planned to donate fluxHome to a low-income family after the competition, it found the donation not to be feasible. Instead, it is now considering several alternative options and hopes to have a new plan for fluxHome in early 2014.


Alice Kimm
Phone: 213-700-4740

Photo of members of the University of Southern  California Solar Decathlon 2013 team behind a Santa Clara University sign. Enlarge image

The University of Southern California Solar Decathlon 2013 team (Courtesy of the University of Southern California Solar Decathlon 2013 team)

The University of Southern California audiovisual presentation

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