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May 22, 2008

Solar Decathlon team

Team members (from left) Jennifer Ross, graduate student in architecture; Ulrike Passe, assistant professor of architecture; Clare Cardinal-Pett, associate professor of architecture; and David Gustafson, senior in mechanical engineering; with a scaled model of the Interlock House, Iowa State's entry in the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Solar Decathlon house design unveiled as summer activities begin

by Teddi Barron, News Service

On May 3, Iowa State's Solar Decathlon Team unveiled its design for the Interlock House. The 800-square-foot, energy-efficient home will compete with 19 other teams in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon in the fall of 2009 in Washington, D.C.

During spring semester, an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty created the design. It incorporates photovoltaic cells, passive solar features and other green technologies. The house is designed to generate enough energy for its needs and direct surplus energy to another house or the grid. Intended to fit on a small lot in an existing neighborhood, the house will integrate indoor and outdoor spaces. The landscaping will make use of the site by including an edible garden and plants that enhance energy efficiency.

The Interlock House also will showcase new building materials and components under development at Iowa State, such as soy glue and soy plastics. And it will incorporate a water system that minimizes reliance on offsite infrastructure, including storm water drainage systems. It will feature water conservation strategies, such as gray water recycling and rainwater collection.

Ulrike Passe, assistant professor of architecture, heads the project, which has a budget of $750,000. That covers materials, construction and transportation. The house will be built on or near campus starting next January, then disassembled and reconstructed in a solar village on the lawn of the National Mall. Following the competition, the house will become a campus teaching laboratory for Iowa State students and the public.

This summer, a core group of 15 students will test materials, work on construction documents, and evaluate energy models, Passe said. Prefabricated panels and technical components will be constructed and tested to evaluate and verify performance.

Since its inception in 2002, the Solar Decathlon has developed into one of the premiere venues in the United States for research and development of green building technologies. Additional details, including information on how to donate to the team, is online.


Iowa State's entry, the Interlock House, is one of 20 projects competing in the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 Solar Decathlon. Since 2002, the competition has promoted research and development of green building technologies.