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2015 Solar Decathlon: INHouse

California Polytechnic State University

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Project Name

2015 Solar Decathlon: INHouse

Project Status

Student Work


U.S. Department of Energy


  • Lisa-Marie-Mueller, Alyssa Parr, Kristin Hyatt, Danielle Summe, Olivia DelBono, Erik Pinuelas, Brian Murillo, Michael Fletcher, Roxy Kermani, Chris Jordano, Michael Scott, Cristina Paquin, Sanchit Joshi, Julien Blarel, Soroush Aboutalebi, Daniel Carlson, Erik Hoffnagle, Dion Celebrado, Casey Smith, Jenna Denhaan, Dante Carillo, Tim Ambrose, Andrew Elliott, Jacob Ruiz, Mackenzie Taggart, Sandy Stannard, Kim Shollenberger, Richard Beller, Jeff Ponitz, Elbert Speidel, Dale Dolan, John Clements

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Project Description


INhouse Intro:
INhouse is designed to inspire its residents to take control of their personal environment. Intuitive, interactive, integrated: our interpretation of net-zero, a new way of interpreting a contemporary California home. INhouse explores the link between system and resident, with the goal of making operation and management intuitive, energy affordable, and waste minimal.

Team & Competition Intro:
INhouse was created by a multidisciplinary team of students and faculty from across 12 different majors at Cal Poly, SLO. Together, they are competing in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. The competition challenges collegiate teams from all over the nation to design, engineer, and construct net zero homes. A net zero home is one in which the energy the homes consumes is offset by renewable energy sources on-site. On October 8th through the 18th the homes will be assembled at the Great Park in Orange County, California. Each of the 15 teams will show-off their sustainable solar home by competing in a series of ten different contests that range from architectural design, to using their appliances to cook a meal, to charging and driving an electric car.

Why is This Important?
For over forty years, California has been at the forefront in mandating the most rigorous energy standards in the country. Recently, additional requirements were passed which require all new residential construction to be net zero by the year 2020 and all new commercial construction to be net zero by the year 2030. These regulations
are changing the landscape of design in California. To build a home that harmoniously fits into California's future, we focused our design on climate and place.

What is It?
The design of this house is driven by climate and place INhouse is intelligently designed to respond to the conditions of the climate in coastal California, such that the majority of its needs for heating, cooling and lighting are addressed architecturally.
• INhouse creates a 1,000 square foot intuitive, interactive and integrated home for an individual or couple who have an eagerness to interface with and adapt to the home.
• INhouse includes two wings – one public and one private – linked to an active core. On the exterior, the core and the wings are formally and materially differentiated through volume as well as materials.
• Residents can double their living space by completely opening the 15 foot Nana Wall® inviting a seamless indoor to outdoor connection.

• Residents can easily learn how to operate the passive systems of the house – sliding screens, sliding glass walls and operable windows.
• Through a control system, residents can communicate on site or remotely with their heating, cooling and lighting systems.
• Over time by actively engaging with INhouse, residents can save energy, reduce costs and maximize comfort.

• INhouse provides an environment that enables the resident to adjust the house to meet changing needs. Interaction with the house is based on the resident’s senses and aims at enhancing each experience.
• When the weather is nice, s/he can open the folding glass wall between the living module and the outdoor bifacial solar photovoltaic room.
• Real-time feedback informs residents about energy use and production, allowing them to appropriately respond to this information.

• The home is designed around a core that contains its active intelligence – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and monitoring systems.
• INhouse aims to unify all of the home’s components into a coherent whole – from passive to active, indoor to outdoor, and architecture to engineering.
• All systems are integrated, creating an efficient home that is simultaneously delightful as well as user friendly.

Net Zero Features
• Landscape irrigation: Our roof redirects storm water directly to our planters, which are designed as rain gardens. These gardens naturally filter the water through the landscaping and soil.
• Constructed wetlands system: This system cleans and recycles all of the gray-water that the house produces and directs it to be used for landscape irrigation. The planters in the system have three layers of soil topped by native plants. As the water steps down each planter, it waters the plants on the surface and the remaining water is filtered through the gravel and sand.
• Bifacial solar panels: Making up half of our photovoltaic array, these panels have photovoltaic cells on both the top and the bottom of the panels. Bifacial panels collect most of their energy from the top, collecting additional energy from reflected light hitting the bottom of the panels. They tie aesthetics together with energy production.
• Phase-change material duct: A duct that contains a natural oil-phase-change material that changes between a freezing melting state at approximately room temperature. During this process, it absorbs and releases energy in the form of heat. The duct opens to the outside at night and circulates cold air, which allows the material to cool. During the day, the interior’s warm air can be circulated through the duct, keeping the inside cool while reducing the need for air conditioning.

Contemporary California Aesthetic
• Basic construction: Our core framing uses kiln-dried lumber, which has a very low moisture content. This prevents the growth of mold and mildew. For the public and private wings, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) provide a continuous thermal barrier, keeping the inside of the home at a consistent temperature. Additionally, SIP construction is fast, saving homeowners time and money.
• Core cladding: Richlite® Rainshadow is made from paper. The panels contain FSC® certified material and recycled content. This material is sourced and manufactured on the West Coast and meets the most stringent chemical emissions standards.
• Wings cladding: INhouse is clad with Hardie Panel®. This product is one of the most inexpensive panels on the market, yet it is durable, lasting for more than 50 years. Through its lifespan, it does not discolor or warp and requires no maintenance. This fiber cement board panel also contains FSC® wood.
• Redwood screen, decks, and planters: FSC® certified and sourced in California, including some from Cal Poly’s own Swanton Ranch. Redwood has a long life-span and when left unstained, it patinas to a beautiful gray. By not treating the screen, decks, and planters, we save the owners money and maintenance. When pieces of the screen or decks are no longer useful, they can be chipped and reused for mulch or other products.
• Bamboo interior flooring and cabinetry: Cali Bamboo® is made from FSC® certified bamboo. Bamboo is a durable and rapidly renewable resource. In addition to flooring, bamboo plywood faces appear in most of the cabinetry throughout the home. The soft rich color adds to INhouse’s inviting atmosphere.  

How to Get Involved
You can get involved by supporting the team today! Visit our website where you can find more information about our current progress. We are actively seeking donations to fundraise for the cost of the home and students’ expenses of competing. You also can help by spreading our message to friends and family through our social media pages @solarcalpoly on facebook, twitter, instagram, flickr, and youtube.

Future Plans
Right now, the team is making arrangements to install the home on Cal Poly’s campus after the competition. Once adapted to the landscape of San Luis Obispo, California, residents of INhouse will be faced with the challenge of learning how to live net zero. The house itself will be the vehicle of their education. The home will continue to be monitored over time as students and faculty learn from our results.
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