"There are a lot of people who come through the house on scheduled tours who say, 'I love it, where can I get one?" Giles says of the MiSo house, which sports a design reminiscent of an Airstream trailer. "People who embrace a modern world and see the house as an opportunity for contemporary living love it. Those who are steeped in traditional values and want a house that has a Colonial look probably aren't going to change their minds for this."

But it's not just modernists and urbanites who are intrigued by the house's design. Giles recently was approached by investors interested in constructing several thousand versions for a housing development in Peru.

"We've been looking, mostly by word-of-mouth for an opportunity to engage the ultimate objective of getting someone to go forward with building the house," Giles says, noting that the Peru opportunity is an exciting one that has the potential of moving quickly.

Giles' focus in modularity, multifamily building, and customization, opens the concept to multi-level living as well. "The project has springboarded into another grant we've received for prefabricated modular housing for multifamily low-income development," the professor says. "That's the next generation in fabrication, concept, and development, and a lot of that involves the methods we tested and experimented with in the original MiSo House."

student ingenuity

As a major sponsor of each event, BP Solar recognizes that technologies introduced at the Solar Decathlon represent the next generation of green building concepts—and green builders.

"You have a series of students that are becoming the future architects of this country," says Eric Daniels, vice president of technology and product development for BP Solar. "I can't conceive of a better way to bring about renewable energy, efficiency, and optimized living than to have students participate and then become the leaders that bring us into this new world."

Indeed, while some teams cooperate with product manufacturers and developers, others undertake the heady task of creating solar houses and all their components from scratch. This year, one such project is Iowa State University's Interlock House. The team fabricated both a liquid desiccant dehumidification system and a series of passive tracking louvers outfitted with thin film photovoltaics.

"We partnered with a firm called Power Film to incorporate their thin film photovoltaics onto our louvers, but the louver system itself was designed and built by students," says Eric Berkson, a senior architecture student and IT coordinator for the Iowa State Solar Decathlon team. "There's also nothing on the market in terms of a commercial system comparable to the liquid desiccant dehumidification system we have. We see more student-designed prototypes of the systems every year, so there's definitely potential for a product like that to enter the market in the future."

Daniels says the construction industry can learn a lot from the innovative student-developed technologies used in the Solar Decathlon, and he hopes the event continues to draw the attention it demands.

"The students have done a fantastic job, and I applaud them for the work they do," Daniels says. "I look forward to more and more users getting interested in this type of interaction with energy, especially with the ideas that it opens up for professional home builders, appliance manufacturers, and other companies that are on this low-carbon, energy-optimization journey."

Lauren Hunter is associate editor for REMODELING magazine.

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