Living Light | Solar Decathlon Entry


The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an international competition held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for interdisciplinary student-led teams to design and build solar-powered, energy-efficient homes. Team Living Light of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was one of 20 competitors selected to participate in 2011. In less than two years the teams compete against each other to design and build a home that will be judged for its excellence in 10 categories: from Architecture and Engineering to Communications. This project won several awards, including the AIGA Justified and ReDesign Awards.

The Living Light Architecture Faculty Team consisted of:
Edgar Stach
James Rose
Barbara Klinkhammer

The Living Light Student Design Team consisted of:
Samantha Ownby
Ben Frederick
Simon Sok
Taylor Dudney
Amy Price
Jaclyn Salem
Diana Lowrie
Sean Leader
Nicole Cooksey
Harrison Vincent
Tommi Sharp
Jacob Schneider
Dena Anschutz
Jarred Elrod
Meghan Terry

  • House Design :
    Our house design builds upon traditional building strategies and the history of energy research in the state of Tennessee. Learning from buildings of Southern Appalachia, the dogtrot house and cantilever barn, the team was inspired to incorporate daylight, natural ventilation, and adaptability to natural conditions

  • Tubular Solar Array :
    The trellis-like tubular solar array works with the reflective roof to produce electricity from direct and reflected sunlight as well as shading the roof and walls. In this flat rooftop array sunlight is captured across a 360° photovoltaic (PV) surface while maintaining a low profile. This allows the array to function at its full potential in any location. The cylindrical shape offers a few other benefits as well. The space between cylinders enables light to pass through the panel to a reflective white rooftop, permitting diffuse and reflected light to be captured on the under side of the PV. The wind load on the roof is reduced due to the spaces as well.

  • Logo System :
    The logo system is comprised of a mark and a logotype. The mark is both gear and sun, which refers to the mechanical power of the sun and signifies the idea that people can work together with nature to support the planet. In the logotype, there is evidence of the major concepts of the house: do more with less; be functional and modular. The ligatures coupled with the use of repetitive linear forms visualize these ideas using letterform parts. In addition, the stroke weights and round terminals add flow and subtly refer to the tubular photovoltaic panels in the roof array.

  • Information Icons :
    Our modular home makes use of component systems with the ability to enhance the energy efficiency and sustainability of simple strategies. Complexity is only added when necessary. After unpacking the many ideas encompassed in LIVING LIGHT, the team agreed on 6 underlying themes that dictated the design of the home. In addition to other contexts, these information icons will be used on location to explain, and connect, the various systems and identify their location in the house.

  • Home Electronic System :
    The home systems can be monitored and controlled by an interface designed for use on an ipad. The touch screen provides user access to control heating and air, lighting, blinds, media, energy efficiency and weather. Also embedded in the design is a variety of “mood” settings and a default “Living Light” mode.

  • Website :
    The use of Social Media is an important aspect of the site given that one main goal of the competition is to generate excitement and educate the public about process of designing and building a 100% Solar efficient home. One unique feature of the site is the shifting of the background color every two hours, moving from lighter to darker as midnight approaches. Unfortunately, the website was temporary and is no longer active.

  • Video & Scout Badges :
    VIDEO To raise money for our project, we designed a 7 minute documentary video to explain our process to potential donors. We asked them to become a part of our journey to Washington D.C. SCOUT BADGES To encourage children to know more about Solar energy, we came up with the idea of a scout badge. Boys and Girls who went on a tour of the house could receive a solar energy badge.

  • Fundraising Posters :
    Part of the campaign to raise money was the design of a poster that on one side was a poetic statement about our project and on the other held pragmatic information for donors and sponsors. The poetic side suggests that by overlapping our natural resources with technology we can generate green, sustainable ways of living and working. Jarred Elrod and I collaborated on the design of this poster.

  • Solar T-Shirts :
    These t-shirts were printed using photochromic ink, which is pigment that is activated by UV light. The text has an light outline that fills in with dark blue when worn outside in the sunlight