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MU Students Showcase Solar House at International Decathlon

Students from MU and Missouri Science and Technology will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

October 8th, 2009

Story Contact: Kelsey Jackson, (573) 882-8353,
MU's College of Human Environmental Science held a student send-off event on Sept. 30, 2009 with a 3D demonstration of the construction of the Solar House.

MU's College of Human Environmental Science held a student send-off event on Sept. 30, 2009 with a 3D demonstration of the construction of the Solar House.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Architectural studies students from the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Science traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete with 19 international teams in the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon from Oct. 8-16. The MU students, in collaboration with engineering students from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, formed the Show-Me Solar Team and designed and built an energy-efficient solar-powered house.

The team worked on the design and layout of the house for more than two years and began construction of the 800-square-foot house in January. Last week, they transported it in pieces to the National Mall and are rebuilding it for a judging panel and 150,000 viewers. The team will compete in 10 contests ranging from hosting a dinner party in the home to performance tests that include keeping the house temperature between 72 and 76 degrees.

“The competition provides opportunities for students to think about their energy usage,” said Michael Lam, a senior in the architectural studies program at MU. “It’s a good way to get young people involved in the conversation about solar and renewable energy.”

The Show-Me Team designed the home to suit the needs of a variety of people. The team addressed recommendations from the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the height of cabinets and countertops. They have received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification, which recognizes buildings that have improved performance in a variety of areas including energy savings and water efficiency. To minimize impact on the planet, all of the materials for the one-bedroom house were all from within 500 miles of Rolla, and the team made sure that the entire house could fit on one truck for transport to Washington, D.C.

“I wanted to be involved because it wasn’t just building something on the computer or on paper. I definitely got a unique hands-on experience working with this team,” said Beth Lueckenhoff, a senior in the architectural studies program at MU.

The team created a custom home automation system, named Chameleon, to monitor and control the energy use within the house. It uses a solar powered water heating system, which produces radiant floor heating. The house also has an 8-kW rooftop photovoltaic array, which is positioned to maximize sunlight and generates electricity for the house. Insulated panels in the walls and the roof provide an R-40 insulation value.

This is the fourth year that Missouri S&T has competed in the decathlon, but this year’s partnership with MU made the experience unique for all of the participants.

“Living in two different cities has added challenges for our t

eam,” said Luke Sudkamp, a civil and architectural engineering student at S&T. “Long-distance collaboration is common place in the architecture industry and this experience will be helpful for us in the future.”

After the decathlon, the house will join Missouri S&T’s previous entries in their solar village in Rolla. The Department of Energy awarded $100,000 over two years to each team to help finance the project, but the team had to raise the rest of the funds to support their $350,000 house.

For more information and resources, please visit  For updates from the team while in Washington, D.C. please visit: