Team California's 2009 house features a modified version of the bamboo I-beam with a web design that allows builders to run conduit along the beam for structural wiring.

partner with the pros

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also benefitted from some professional assistance. The team partnered with Homeway Homes, a modular-home builder, as a study in mass marketability.

"Part of our goal was to build a house that regular people would buy and find marketable," says Dr. Patrick Chapman, one of the team's faculty advisors. "There's a tendency at Solar Decathlon for architects to push the envelope when it comes to design. We didn't want to design a 'plain old house,' but we did want something that had its own genre while still being very livable."

As a result, Illinois' Gable Home is a passive house that features a range of green technologies under a traditional Midwestern gable roof (complete with a solar array). During both construction and deconstruction (prior to moving the house to Washington), the team took advantage of Homeway's expertise in building homes that are easy to disassemble and transport.

In addition, Homeway's proficiency in creating modular homes leaves the door open for the university to consider creating a version of the house on a marketable scale.

"We've batted around the mass-production idea with Homeway, and it comes down to math and having a clear business plan," Chapman says. "If Gable Home is something that can make a profit, they may consider selling it."

He adds that Homeway representatives have said that, even though the firm strives to create energy-efficient modular homes, the Solar Decathlon stretched it. "For mass marketability, we'd like to work with them again on a house that would probably be more efficient than what they normally construct, but probably not as extreme as was we've done for Solar Decathlon."

Mass market appeal was also a goal for the Michigan Solar "MiSo" House, the University of Michigan's Solar Decathlon entry in 2005. Although most of the students on the team have graduated, Dr. Harry Giles has continued research based around the house's systems and the opportunities they present. The house is open to the public in the Univeristy of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Mich., and serves as a green education platform for visitors.