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

Solar Decathlon 2013

Stanford University

Team website: solardecathlon.stanford.edu

For the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, Stanford University designed the Start.Home to provide energy efficiency at the push of a button to a new generation of environmentally conscious occupants. With modular architecture and advanced controls to optimize each component, the house aims to spark a revolution by lowering the entry barrier for an ultra-efficient house and making sustainability trendy, social, and affordable.

Design Philosophy

The Start.Home is built on a simple, three-by-three modular grid and integrates core, public, and private modules as well as multiple technologies to optimize value and energy efficiency. These spaces can be added or subtracted to allow the house to grow with the family by filling the role of bedrooms, solariums, studios, or garages. All of these spaces are powered at the push of a button by the CORE, which plugs directly into the public module, completing the home environment.


  • The prefabricated public module includes a kitchen counter and appliances, bathroom and laundry room, and a mechanical room with integrated electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Exterior redwood siding and interior Douglas fir hardwood floors were salvaged from old homes in the California Bay Area.
  • A custom building energy management system with intuitive controls and a prominent interface gathers electricity and water use data and visualizes it to the occupants for motivation and goal setting.
  • A great room for dinner parties or game nights can spill out to the expansive backyard patio through large glass sliding doors that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living.
  • An edible backyard garden provides fruits and vegetables.


  • The CORE mechanical room integrates the Start.Home power generation and controls into one centralized "engine" with modular additions to extend the control system to each living space.
  • A modular framework supports future additions.
  • Structural insulated panels maintain a tight and insulated building envelope.
  • A greywater system filters and reuses laundry water for exterior irrigation.
  • A heat-recovery ventilator works with an efficient heating/cooling system, automated windows, phase-change materials, energy-efficient ceiling fans, and a tri-zone ductless mini-split system to provide year-round comfort and natural ventilation.

Market Strategy

Targeted to young Palo Alto couples, the Start.Home is designed for the new generation of innovators interested in an affordable, ultra-efficient house. With a prominent and intuitive home automation system, the house provides interactive guidance for occupants looking to be at the technical forefront of a sustainable movement.

What's Next

After the Solar Decathlon, the Start.Home will be home to a family of three in the Stanford community. An additional bedroom will be added, and the house will be re-assembled on site at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve to house the resident ranger and his family. The design team ultimately aims to bring the sustainable core to market to help homeowners nationwide integrate sustainability into their lives.


Emma Sagan
Phone: 339-223-9612

Photo of members of the Stanford University Solar  Decathlon 2013 team on a small hill in front of a campus building. Enlarge image

The Stanford University Solar Decathlon 2013 team (Courtesy of the Stanford University Solar Decathlon 2013 team)

The Stanford University audiovisual presentation

Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.