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07/18/2011 07:00:00

Summer Construction of the SCI-Arc/Caltech Solar Decathlon House Hits High Gear

A joint team of students from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) are working 60-plus-hour weeks this summer to complete construction of a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient house for the Solar Decathlon, a biennial competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that will be held from September 23 to October 2 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The competition challenges 20 teams from around the world to create the most energy-efficient, affordable, and attractive house they can.

The team is nearing completion of the house's heating and air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems; polyurethane insulation was blown into the ceiling joists on July 14, and now team members are busy piecing together 1/2" construction-grade plywood as finish sheeting on the ceiling.

Once finished, the two-story SCI-Arc/Caltech house will sport a soft "skin" of white architectural vinyl—typically used in tent halls—and a central computer, connected to the Internet, to control everything from heating to lighting based on weather forecasts and other data, optimizing energy use.

To follow a blog documenting the SCI-Arc/Caltech team's progress and view pictures of the build, go to

Written by Kathy Svitil