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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 1, 2008

ISU is one of 20 international teams selected for solar decathlon

by Teddi Barron, News Service

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected Iowa State as one of 20 teams from 25 colleges and universities to compete in the fourth Solar Decathlon in the fall of 2009 in Washington, D.C.

Solar Decathlon teams design, build and operate attractive and energy-efficient, solar-powered homes.

In fall 2009, the National Mall will be transformed when the Solar Decathlon homes are displayed in a solar village.

ISU faculty and students from five colleges have met weekly for more than a year to establish the first Solar Decathlon team from the state of Iowa. Ulrike Passe, assistant professor of architecture, is heading the effort.

"Iowa State will bring a new and distinctive perspective to the competition with our strengths in design, engineering and agricultural technologies," Passe said.

More than 100 ISU students are expected to participate -- either as an extracurricular activity through the Solar Decathlon Club (an official student organization open to all students), in specific for-credit courses in Design and Liberal Arts and Sciences, or through assignments and projects in various courses in Business, Design, Engineering, and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The project also will involve the building trades program at Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny; and the Sustainable Energy Technology Program at Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge.

The decathlon gets its name from the 10 specific areas of competition: architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance and transportation. In addition to producing enough electricity and hot water to perform all the functions of a home, each home must produce surplus energy sufficient to power an electric car.

Iowa State's 800-square-foot "Interlock House" will use three primary system features: a photovoltaic array to produce electricity, the structure's envelope and thermal mass to capture and store energy, and water-based radiant heat and cooling vents to balance overall energy flows.

The house will:

  • generate enough energy for its needs and be designed to direct any surplus to a companion house or the grid
  • showcase new building materials under development at ISU, such as soy glues and soy plastics
  • use recycled and recyclable materials
  • incorporate water conservation strategies, such as grey water recycling and rainwater collection
  • test new spatial composition strategies and smart envelope design
  • be transported to Washington, D.C., using trucks powered by bio-diesel fuel.

After the competition, the house will be reconstructed on campus to serve as an educational facility and laboratory for green building technology and systems performance testing.

Fund raising for the Interlock House already has begun, Passe said. Projects in past competitions have cost more than $500,000. Contact Passe, 4-7142, for more information.


"Iowa State will bring a new and distinctive perspective to the competition with our strengths in design, engineering and agricultural technologies."

Ulrike Passe, assistant professor of architecture