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

Solar Decathlon 2013

West Virginia University

Team website: solar.wvu.edu

For the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, West Virginia University presented Preserving Energy with Appalachian Knowledge, or PEAK, which invites residents to embrace a new Appalachian way of living with contemporary, mountaineer design that blends subtly with automated smart systems. PEAK integrates innovative technologies and passive design techniques to maximize energy efficiency and support sustainable design practices and approaches.

Design Philosophy

PEAK adapts modern technologies to traditional architecture. It captures the Appalachian spirit of West Virginia and aims to change the vision society has of energy-saving homes by combining affordability, energy efficiency, and reliability within a comfortable setting. Its unique style augments elements of a rustic log cabin with innovative and modern home automation and energy-saving technologies.


  • A solar chimney in the center of the house provides passive ventilation and represents a hearth that mimics the feel of a traditional Appalachian house.
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings made of structural insulated panels provide higher insulation levels while maintaining a rustic "log cabin" aesthetic.
  • The kitchen's state-of-the-art smart appliances reduce energy consumption by communicating with one another and making decisions to reduce power use.
  • A rooftop garden minimizes heat collection and water runoff and maximizes the usable area for growing edible vegetation.
  • A living wall conditions the interior climate and provides fresh herbs and produce.


  • Sustainable energy systems—a photovoltaic system and a solar water-heating system—provide quick and sufficient hot water and virtually eliminate electricity bills.
  • The user-friendly, all-encompassing home automation system allows users to control all systems using a smartphone or tablet.
  • The climate-control system enables room-by-room temperature and lighting adjustments. Through smart HVAC technology, users can set different zoning preferences without disturbing the settings of other rooms.
  • An integrated health-monitoring system with floor-integrated scales and accompanying wrist bands calculates body mass index and helps monitor blood pressure and other health factors, integrating holistic health into the home environment.

Market Strategy

PEAK offers a cozy spare bedroom and half bath to fit an array of occupancy circumstances—whether they include expanding family or out-of-town guests. Celebrating the open and rustic feel of the mountain region, the house offers its clients distinct comfort and sustainability.

What's Next

After Solar Decathlon 2013, PEAK will return to West Virginia University to serve as an architectural representation of self-sustainable living in the Appalachian area. It will host a variety of events for the school, community, and surrounding area and serve as a tool used for recruiting students.


Branden Bellanca
Phone: 304-281-7797

Photo of members of the West Virginia University Solar  Decathlon 2013 team in front of a building on campus. Enlarge image

The West Virginia University Solar Decathlon 2013 team (Courtesy of the West Virginia University Solar Decathlon 2013 team)

The West Virginia University audiovisual presentation

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