Success story from the Solar Decathlon!

2 min read

Our intern Major Zeng participated as one of the architects in her team at the Solar Decathlon event for Northwestern University. Goal of this competition was to build and operate a net zero solar paneled single family home under 1000sf conditioned space and compete in 10 different categories (e.g., innovation, smart energy use, market potential). Major’s team targeted the baby boomer generation who is looking to downsize. The team won in two out of ten competitions – market potential and communication. A third place could be achieved in the category engineering.

The team developed a house with a very open and livable floor plan. The students were the only team that could fit two bathrooms and two bedrooms into the square footage limit. “We made a great effort to make the house looks homey, beautiful and traditional, which means we tried out best to hide all sustainable features. One really cool feature is our retractable sun room on the south deck. The operable sun room is a strong  thermal buffer and mild temperature activity space in the winter and can fully open up during the summer time.” says Major. Furthermore the house is designed for aging in place meaning the entire house is wheelchair accessible. Recycled materials were used wherever possible, including a recycled glass countertop, a recycled porcelain tile and fly ash casted exterior panels.

During the public exhibition Major and her team received many positive comments from the visitors, especially from older people who were their targeted demographic. Many visitor used the attributes “beautiful”, “their favorite”, “want to live in” for the house. This shows that the team achieved its goal to provide sustainability in a traditional household without compromising comfort or aesthetics.

Proof of the successful project is the purchase of the house by an Evanston resident, who lives 10 minutes away from the Northwestern Campus and belongs to the target demographic.

For more information about the project please click here.