Conference Year



Net Zero Homes, Solar Decathlon, Design and Perfomance


The Solar Decathlon is a biennial Department of Energy (DOE) collegiate contest to “promote and speed to market” solar powered, residential homes (Grose, 2009). It is a student competition wherein twenty universities are selected to design, build, and showcase residential structures that would ultimately be relocated to a competition campus in West Potomac Park in Washington D.C. to be viewed by the general public and judged by representatives of the DOE. The challenge is “design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive” (DOE). The project structures are homes that are designed and built to conform to the parameters set forth by the DOE in an effort to showcase the use of solar power as a practical means of residential line voltage power supply. The projects are then judged according to how well they performed within those parameters. The challenges involved in the design and construction of a “net- zero” house, that is a house that produces at least as much electricity as it consumes, were formidable. Equally formidable were the technical/logistical issues inherent in designing and constructing a building that could be disassembled and transported. Finally, reconstructing a residential dwelling, complete in all respects, in the allotted time period of seven days created educational opportunities that mirror conditions the construction manager will face in his or her professional life. Multidiscipline work groups analyzed the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, building controls, and photovoltaic performance requirements. These systems not only had to be integrated within each other, but they also had to work within a tight construction budget and build schedule. Those requirements are challenging enough on a normal construction project. Added to the complexity is that the INhome had to be built on the Purdue campus and then shipped to the competition site in Washington D.C. This paper highlights the process and strategies that Team Purdue utilized to design, build, operate, move, and successfully compete in the Solar Decathlon 2011 with a net zero home.