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Four-time Solar Decathlon competitor Missouri University of Science & Technology (MST) partnered with first-timer the University of Missouri for this year's competition. The team based its collaborative effort on the concept of "expanding horizons," and the Show-Me Solar House aims to do just that—open people’s eyes to the many benefits of a greener, more energy-efficient lifestyle through design.

Team Missouri's house has two faces. The rear, clad in reclaimed Missouri pine boards that hearken back to the state's agricultural past, is capped by a section of reflective white fiber-cement panels that wrap around 16 clerestory windows. The Show-Me house's front, however, is all about modern technology: Stationary louvers running the length of the south-facing facade shade a series of floor-to-ceiling windows to prevent heat gain in the summer—blocking about 80% of the light and heat—while allowing it in the winter.

Forty photovoltaic panels on the Show-Me house's shed roof are rated at 8 kW, providing ample electricity generation. The solar thermal system's 40 evacuated tube collectors supply heated water for a variety of needs, including the in-floor radiant heating system. To light the space at night, the team incorporated LED spot lights and wall sconces, but added a fluorescent "Happy Light"—so called because it emits a wavelength of light that the human eye responds to positively—over the dining room table.

Built as one module from structural insulated panels, the house's R-40-insulated envelope and passive solar design, including ventilation and daylight harvesting, as well as its East-West orientation, all help minimize electrical demand, according to team project manager Cory Brennan, a student in MST's architecture and civil engineering program. Operable clerestories allow unwanted heat to escape the interior, while massing the bulk of the kitchen cabinets and heat-producing appliances along the back wall is intended to provide a buffer against Missouri's winter winds.

Energy efficiency was further assisted by the team's selection of the most energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting fixtures available. Students even worked with Whirlpool Corp., a team donor, to modify appliances so that they respond to commands from the Chameleon Home Automation System (developed with National Instruments).

Team Missouri designed the Chameleon system specifically to manage the use of solar-generated energy and to manage the home's interior environment. The homeowner activates the system by queuing the appliances through a touchscreen, and the system monitors external conditions throughout the day to determine when energy production is at its peak. Chameleon then runs appliances according to the program set by the homeowner, giving the solar thermal and photovoltaic systems time to recoup the energy expended by the appliances. It controls Show-Me's HVAC, lighting, windows and shades, home entertainment components, and standby power system, as well as the appliances. If the house's interior becomes too hot, Chameleon will automatically open windows or activate the air conditioner.

At 643 square feet, the Show-Me house's interiors are as comfortable and accessible as the energy systems are complex and efficient. Defining public from private spaces was a priority for Team Missouri, according to Brennan. "We wanted to have a big, open area for entertaining and to delight the public," he says.

The bedroom and bathroom are tucked away at the back of the house for privacy, and the bedroom opens to a private deck. The public space—encompassing the kitchen, dining area, and living/entertaining area—is airy, open, and filled with light from the clerestory windows. Wood plank flooring runs diagonally across the house's footprint to align interiors with the outdoor decks, tying the two living spaces together.

Having three previous Solar Decathlon entries to refer to has taught Team Missouri a few valuable lessons, which they implemented for this year's competition. The most important was the home’s one-module solution. "In the last competitions, we've had up to four modules that had to all be shipped and then connected together before we could do anything else, which is a massive undertaking," Brennan says. "The only thing we had to do this year was crane our roof up to tilt and then put up our side walls. It was much easier."

Stephani Miller is Associate Web Editor for residential architect and Custom Home magazines.