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2015 Solar Decathlon: STILE House

West Virginia University , University of Roma Tor Vergata

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U.S. Department of Energy


  • Sharrafti Kuzmar, Stefana Rossi, Amanda Summers, Giovanni Consiglio, Andrea Di Nezio, Flavio Martella, Tiziana Costanzo, Damiano Raparelli, Elisa Roncaccia, Stephen Cavanaugh, Joanna Ridgeway, Molly Banfield, Todd Funkhouser, Ambra Guglietti, Marco Napolitano, Alessandro Zonfrilli, Dario Atzori, Lucrezia Alfonsi, Simone Pretolani, Alex Hatch, Hudson Barrett, Nick Spinello, Jordan Lockett, Michelle Jamshidi, William Shipley, Beau Eddy, Brandon Lee, Jordan Cohill, Iacopo Carinci, Nico Agnoli, David Petrelle, Bradley Griffee, Syihan Muhammad, Joshua Ward, Timothy Scott, Amanda Boszczuk, Samantha Millard-McEvoy, Morgan Southall, Haily Flowers, Rachel Dapper

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Student Work
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Project Description



West Virginia University and the University of Rome Tor Vergata have teamed up to create not only a house, but a home, through Sustainable Technology Integrated in a Learning Experience (STILE): the future of green building.

The overall design of STILE is linear and modern, using steel materials and neutral tones, with the design concept emerging from a blending of two cultures: Appalachian and Roman.

The house structure of STILE is referred to as the Box, and is designed as the American element of the cultural duo. Its Italian counterpart, the Arch, is designed as a modern interpretation of the classic Roman arch. Both components overlap each other, however instead of the Arch covering the entire Box, the Arch is offset to provide more of a contrast in form and space. This offset is not only aesthetic, it also reinforces the concept of merging the two cultures while still retaining the individuality of each.             

We believe in a world where one day every building will effectively utilize the sustainable resources offered by the surrounding landscape, minimizing its environmental impact. Stemming from this concept, we’ve designed STILE to ensure that the complete energy needs of the house are satisfied using solar energy, thanks to the use of monocrystalline PV panels that represent the greatest performing solar technology available today.  


Partially covering the deck is the southern facing Arch, reminiscent of classic Roman architecture. By only partially covering the deck with the Arch, a more dynamic space is created, with various options for passive outdoor recreation available. The smooth angle of the Arch's face reiterates the sleek and modern design, while also providing a structure to which STILE's solar panels are set upon. The Arch’s main structure is made of steel, which is strong, durable, and does not run the risk of expanding and compressing during shipping, as lumber would do in such a complicated form. By using steel, it is ensured the house can be built in any location, whether it be America or Italy, which allows easy transference between the two cultures involved in designing STILE.

The house itself, also referred to as the Box, reflects more of the American component of the dual-culture concept. The structure itself is (40’x24’) and is partially made of 3 shipping containers. These containers have been deconstructed and modified to create a fully functioning, aesthetically pleasing, and energy efficient house.

Following with American practical design considering space, the interior is split with 1 container as the "core", and the other 2 containers creating the central living space. By using recycled shipping container structures as storage during the transportation process, the modularity of the house is increased, and a more efficient and cost effective means of shipping is provided.


The Core of the house contains the bathroom, bedroom, and a mechanical room. The Core is designed at an individual level, and features small spaces for personal use. While the main living area is large and open, reflecting more the American style of living, the smaller, more intimate rooms of the Core reflect a more European living style. These smaller spaces suggest a less materialistic lifestyle, using less resources, and therefore needing less storage. The Core is also the structure that will contain many materials during shipping, and will further improve the efficiency of the spaces created. By shipping the Core as a fully constructed piece, construction time is decreased and an initial construction reference is created.


The southern half of the Box contains floor to ceiling windows. These windows open up the house’s interior to the outdoors and create a smooth transition between the Box and the deck.

In keeping with the modern style of the house, the windows span the entire southern half, and wrap around the sides, acting as a “glass wall”. The windows are not only aesthetic; they are also an important component to the energy efficient design of STILE. By opening up the entire southern half of the house with glass, the design welcomes natural sunlight into the house, reducing the need for lighting during the day; during winter months, the southern facing windows will also allow sunlight to enter the home for longer periods during shorter days.


Located above the center of the main living area, is another key component in the energy efficiency of STILE, the Solar Chimney. The Solar Chimney passively ventilates and cools the house by using the differences in pressure due to change in temperature. While the Chimney heats up on the roof, cool air from under the house is pulled up through vents in the floors. The cool air slowly warms and rises, and then reaches the top of the chimney. This change in temperature also causes a change in pressure, which causes more cool air to be pulled up from under the house and constantly replaces the warmer air inside, in a positive feedback loop. This system allows for a passive cooling of the Box, further reducing mechanical cooling needs and energy consumption. The solar chimney also adds aesthetic appeal by acting as a skylight through which natural light can enter, and further opens up the main living area.


Moving through the house, located at the back of STILE is the Vertical Garden. The vertical garden is a conceptual continuation of the Arch. Reiterating the material design choice, the vertical garden’s structural support columns are made of steel, ensuring support for the large amount of vegetation being grown. Continuing the materials choice, the horizontal slats of the green wall are made of 1x6 wood beams, and provide the necessary support while also being cost effective and material wise. Just as the solar array along the Arch provides energy for STILE, so does the vegetation along the northern wall. The planting schedule includes various species which are useful in cooking and home remedies.


The STILE house will incorporate Z-Wave technology in the receptacles, lighting, and other appliances. One of the perks of Z-Wave is that it allows for users to wirelessly control small appliances, lighting, the temperature of the house, and the locks on doors from anywhere.

This is useful because it can lead to efficiency and power saving good habits of turning things off that aren’t being used. Also, Z-Wave has a corresponding app for the user’s phone that allows them to access everything it controls with ease.

One of the key features included in Enel’s Smart Car Charger is the smart grid integration, which lets the consumer delay recharging for off-peak hours. This is the long run will save the consumer money and put less strain on the grid. The control center provides details on energy consumption, which makes calculating the bill for energy use easy and efficient.

Finally, there is remote monitoring station of the status and level at which recharging process is at, providing another level of convenience for the user.

With the touch of a button, our home automation system will electronically manipulate many of STILE’s assets while also cutting costs on energy consumption. To accomplish this, we have created software and set several devices in place around the house. These devices include a panel, a Nest thermostat, smart sockets, smart switches, and various detectors to alert the user when something in the house has gone amiss. With these resources, we’ve geared our system to assist the homeowner in living a comfortable, environmentally friendly lifestyle. 

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