Solar Decathlon 2009 Update: The Little House from a Big Town

Reader Contribution by Anna Flin
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On Oct. 16, the overall winner of the Solar Decathlon 2009 will be announced, along with the teams taking second and third place. In the meantime, each home is being evaluated during the DOE’s 10 contests, while teams keep an eye on the scoreboard.

Currently in eighth place, is Team ZEROW, whose head of communications, Allison Elliot, took a few moments from the chaos to share her enthusiasm about ZEROW HOUSE, and the opportunity to show it to the public.

“The last few days on the Mall have been wonderful,” Elliot says. “We have been open for public tours for two days now. Today alone we had over 2,020 visitors. The public has been excited by the cost of our house ($140,000) and has loved the beauty of the interior.”

This beautiful little home comes from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Its style is inspired by Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward District, and is designed to fill a need in the community for affordable housing.  

ZEROW HOUSE’s unique features, emphasized on its team’s website, include the following:

Light Core: a space which can extend the indoor living area onto the deck, because Houston’s outdoor climate is pleasant for much of the year.

Wet Core: an 8-foot-by-10-foot space containing all of the home’s plumbing, electrical and solar systems.

Material Selection: building materials “affordable, sustainable and replicable” for Houston residents.

Photovoltaics: an on-the-grid solar system producing 4.2 kW with the goal of being affordable and accessible to local homeowners.

Solar Hot Water System: solar thermal collectors angled at 30 degrees to effectively absorb and retain heat.

Green Wall: a front porch wall planted with star jasmine, coral honeysuckle and tangerine cross vine.

Shade Structure: a shade for the light core and porch made of powder-coated steel.

According to Elliot, more than 100 students have put time and energy into ZEROW HOUSE since its inception, and that hard work was rewarded when the team took first place for hot water and second for architecture and market viability.

While Team ZEROW is thrilled with the success of their house, Rice News writer Jessica Stark quotes the decathletes’ enthusiasm about returning the little house to its big hometown in her article “Rice’s unconventional house making waves — and energy — at Solar Decathlon.”

“Our house is a little different from the others out on the National Mall,” said Roque Sanchez, a Rice graduate student. “But that’s because we built ours for Houston. It still looks awesome out here between the Capitol and Washington Monument, but we’re excited to bring it back home and hope it will be a big winner.” 

Disassembly will begin on Oct. 19, just three days after the winner (Team California is currently in the lead) is announced. In the meantime, Elliot, Sanchez and their teammates are residing in a long-term stay hotel in the evenings and guiding tours during the day for visitors who, Elliot says, are delighted with the simplest aspects of ZEROW HOUSE.

“Everyone has loved the clothesline,” she says. “You would be amazed by the number of people who stop to take a picture of it.”

Pictured above: ZEROW HOUSE’s clotheline is a huge hit with tourists. Photo by Team ZEROW