This story was originally published in Builder.

Courtesy DOE/MST
Courtesy DOE/MST

The Solar Decathlon is an annual collegiate competition challenging student teams to design and build full-sized, solar-powered homes with an emphasis on sustainability. This year, 13 teams from institutions across the world will participate in 10 contests that emphasize innovative design, energy efficiency, water use, resident comfort, and market potential. The DOE-sponsored competition, which is open to the public, will be held in Denver from Oct. 5-15. In this daily series, BUILDER takes a look at the innovative features of each of the homes.

Traditional farmhouse architecture meets state-of-the-art sustainable technology with SILO, the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s entry in this year’s DOE Solar Decathlon.

Short for Smart Innovative Living Oasis, SILO is a farmhouse-inspired smart home that achieves net-zero energy. Intended for middle-aged empty nesters, the home’s design promotes a farm-inspired quality of life, with ample gathering spaces, natural lighting, fresh air, and greenery.

MST’s SILO includes an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings, and a generous kitchen that promotes food sharing and social dining. Rustic details can be found throughout the home, including exposed trusses and a curved art wall made from corrugated metal.

Despite its old-fashioned style, the home is equipped with ultra-modern smart-home technologies. Lighting, heating, HVAC, fan, and window controls are integrated into a single system for optimal energy efficiency. In addition, voice commands give SILO occupants control over the thermostat, lighting, fans, and clerestory windows from any area of the house.

SILO’s energy storage system, which can be controlled and monitored on a smartphone, includes an 8.5kW solar electric array and six storage batteries with internal microinverters. A student-designed application called “Anduino” also allows occupants to track temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels.

Building on a greywater system used in one of their six past decathlon entries, MST’s SILO incorporates a visually appealing “water wall,” which aerates water used in sinks and showers, preventing algae and extending the window of time for water reuse, according to the team. Recycled water is used to irrigate both the non-edible landscape and the movable, plant-covered wall which doubles as a thermal barrier.

Additionally, the zero-VOC plaster, used throughout SILO as an alternative to wall paint, helps to improve air quality by naturally preventing mold growth and regulating humidity.

The MST team wants to show the general public that comfort and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. After the contest, SILO will be added to MST’s Eco-Village, alongside six past Solar Decathlon entries, to serve as housing for students who are passionate about smart-living research and development.

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