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Learn more about SCI-Arc/Caltech's partnership for the 2013 decathlon, by visiting the 2013 MEET DALE page.

Solar Decathlon 2011 - Team SCI-Arc/Caltech

Jan 26, 2012
SCI-Arc and Caltech Selected Again to Compete in Energy Department's Solar Decathlon 2013

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced that the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have been selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. Read more >>

Jan 18, 2012
KABC 7's Rob Hayes Visits CHIP at Opening Ceremony at Exposition Park

House is open for public tours 10-1:30pm weekdays and 10-4pm weekends at the California Science Center at Exposition Park.

Jan 11, 2012

SCI-Arc, Caltech, Hanwha Solar and California Science Center are pleased to announce the unveiling of the SCI-Arc/Caltech Hanwha Solar CHIP House at the California Science Center in Downtown Los Angeles.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Los Angeles Councilwoman and Mayoral Candidate Jan Perry, Director Eric Owen Moss of SCI-Arc, Caltech Resnick Institute Director Harry Atwater, California Science Center Deputy Director of Education Ron Rohovit, and Justin Lee, Chief Commercial Officer of Hanwha Solar, will be held Tuesday, January 17, at 2pm at the California Science Center at Exposition Park.

Read more HERE.

Oct 19, 2011
Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington Exhibition Opens October 28 in the Library Gallery at SCI-Arc

The Solar Decathlon 2011 follow-up exhibition kicks-off on Friday, October 28, 7-9pm in the SCI-Arc Library Gallery with a discussion with Project Managers Reed Finlay and Elisabeth Neigert, SCI-Arc and Caltech Team Members and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss; reception to follow.


CHIP finishes in 6th place in the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. The winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 is the University of Maryland. Final scores are available at

CHIP jumps to 3rd place overall in the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. Winners will be announced Sunday, Oct 2. Market Appeal is last category left to be announced. More at

CHIP takes 2nd place in Engineering contest and jumps to 4th place overall in the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. Winners will be announced Sunday, Oct 2. More at

CHIP wins 3rd place in the the Affordability category of the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. More at

With its spacesuit-like quilted exterior, CHIP is turning heads on the National Mall in Washington D.C. A few examples of what people are writing about SCI-Arc/Caltech's design:

Los Angeles Times: Designs on Energy Efficiency
Huffington Post: The Solar Decathlon: Innovation Through Making
Metropolis Magazine: An Opportunity for Innovation
CHIP 2011 Blog: It Is What It Does

Take a virtual tour of the completed CHIP house on the National Mall:

The highly anticipated 2011 Solar Decathlon competition debuts today with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring U.S. government officials, students, foreign dignitaries and event sponsors, who will officially open the solar village of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 at the National Mall's West Potomac Park.

Tomorrow evening, the SCI-Arc/Caltech team is hosting an exclusive reception at the Hirshhorn Museum with SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss, Caltech Resnick Institute Director Harry Atwater, and trustees, alumni and friends from both schools to celebrate completion of the CHIP Hanwha Solar House, the work of the SCI-Arc/Caltech 2011 Solar Decathlon team and their many project partners. Read more >>

On the Mall, houses open to the public on Friday, September 23 at 10am.

SCI-Arc announced today that China-based Hanwha SolarOne Co., Ltd. (Hanwha Solar) made a $350,000 cash gift to the SCI-Arc/Caltech entry to the U.S. Department of Energy's (U.S. DOE) 2011 Solar Decathlon. This is one of the largest cash sponsorships ever received by a U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon team and the largest corporate sponsorship ever received by SCI-Arc. Hanwha Solar also is providing the solar modules needed to power the SCI-Arc/Caltech team solar home, which is now called the SCI-Arc/Caltech Hanwha Solar CHIP House.

Take a video walkthrough of the SCI-Arc/Caltech Hanwha Solar CHIP House:

"The Decathlon examines new housing typologies, alternative energy sources, and re-imagined technical and material possibilities," stated SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss. "The subject matter is international, so it's essential that the global discussion has global financial support. SCI-Arc welcomes the interest, commitment, and financial support of Hanwha Solar," added Moss.

Additional sponsors of the SCI-Arc/Caltech team include NREL, Southern California Edison, U.S. Department of Energy, Dow Chemical, Resnick Institute, Peter Cross, Bosch, The Vinyl Institute, Tim and Neda Disney, among others. For more information, visit

About Hanwha Group/Hanwha Solar
Traded on the NASDAQ (HSOL) and serving the world's key solar markets, Hanwha Group's Hanwha Solar is a leading global provider of solar products. The company’s products and services extend to utility, commercial, government, and residential solar applications. Hanwha SolarOne's North American Headquarters are located in Costa Mesa, CA.


With only one month left before the competition, the SCI-Arc/Caltech Solar Decathlon team is working round-the-clock to complete and ship their solar house to Washington D.C.

The U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon is an award-winning juried competition that invites university-led teams to design, build and operate solar powered houses that are affordable, energy efficient, and well designed. "The Decathlon examines new housing typologies, alternative energy sources, and re-imagined technical and material possibilities," states SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss.

The SCI-Arc/Caltech Hanwha Solar CHIP House will be completed by late August on the SCI-Arc Campus in Los Angeles. It will then by transported to Washington D.C. on four large trucks to compete in the Decathlon. The house will be on display on the National Mall from September 23 to October 2, 2011, along with 18 other solar-powered houses designed by student teams from around the world. Every house in the competition is required to be net-zero—that is, to use only as much energy as its solar panels can generate.

Visit for more info.

The Solar Decathlon 2011 competition was returned to the National Mall in a surprise decision announced yesterday by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). The twenty competing alternative energy housing prototypes will be exhibited at the National Mall's West Potomac Park—located on the peninsula just south of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. The Solar Decathlon will begin in late September as originally scheduled.

Solar Decahthlon 2011 will take place at the National Mall's West Potomac Park—located on the peninsula just south of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

Now, the team can refocus on building their house, which is computerized to control and monitor energy usage to maximize efficiency. Every house in the competition is required to be net-zero—that is, to use only as much energy as its solar panels can generate. But perhaps what's more striking about the SCI-Arc/Caltech design is its soft, insulating exterior, which gives the building the appearance of a giant pillow. The house is also the only two-story structure in the competition.

For most recent pictures of CH:IP/Compact House, visit

The Department of Energy and the National Park Service announced in January that the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition events would not be hosted on the National Mall. The decision to revoke the permit so late in the process directly affects teams as they are approximately 6 months from shipping their final solar house designs to Washington DC, from all over the world. The teams are extremely concerned about how this decision affects their designs and engineered systems based on the site, budgets, shipping logistics, and financial backers – as the National Mall was an incentive for teams to gain support.

Members and supporters of the 20 finalist teams petitioned to have this decision reversed. As a result, the following appeals were sent to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the US Department of the Interior, and Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy with the US Department of Energy.

Appeal from the Senate >>

Appeal from the House >>

Solar Decathlon Site Map on the National Mall in Washington D.C. >>

Student PSA supporting the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall

SCI-Arc/Caltech Compete in Solar Decathlon 2011

An academic team from SCI-Arc and Caltech will compete in the elite international 2011 Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Drawing on the talents of architecture students at SCI-Arc and engineering students at Caltech, the team will design and build a solar-powered house to be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Selection for participation in the competition comes with a $100,000 grant to be used toward the project. The team will spend the next year and a half working on the house, which will be exhibited and judged in October 2011.

The SCI-Arc/Caltech Team is the first from Southern California selected for the 20-team competition, held every other year. In addition to other U.S. teams chosen for the 2011 decathlon, there are finalists from Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand. Top honors in the 2009 and 2007 competitions went to German teams.


The SCI-Arc/Caltech team was formed in October when students from SCI-Arc who had been preparing an application for the decathlon approached their counterparts at Caltech. Caltech had been considering entering the competition and within days the connection was made. In early November, students from the two schools met at the Corner Bakery in Pasadena to put together a plan—including how to quickly gain full support from each institution and develop strategies to make the project successful. The team navigated those challenges in time to complete its application by the Nov. 15 deadline.

Lead students in the project from SCI-Arc are Reed Finlay, project manager, and Elisabeth Neigert, public relations and fundraising; from Caltech, lead students are Fei Yang, thermal engineering, and Ben Kurtz, solar engineering. Lead faculty members at SCI-Arc are architects Wes Jones, sponsor, and Dwayne Oyler, co-sponsor. From Caltech, lead faculty members are engineers Harry Atwater, sponsor, and Doug Caldwell, co-sponsor.

Key support at SCI-Arc has come from Director Eric Owen Moss, Ming Fung, director of academic affairs, and Jamie Bennett, chief operating officer. At Caltech, key support has come from Jean-Lou Chameau, president, Melanie Hunt, vice-provost, and Nate Lewis and Harry Gray, faculty co-sponsors.

At SCI-Arc, a design studio with 19 students led by Jones developed a conceptual model for the project—which organizers called for in addition to the initial application; Oyler led a corresponding design seminar. At Caltech, an independent seminar was taught around the project by Caldwell, a chief engineer in renewable energy, and Atwater, a leading expert in photovoltaic technology. Both schools plan additional integration of the project into the curriculum.

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The conceptual model, named CH:IP/Compact House: Increasing Possibility, combines a minimal footprint with solar technology for a house that could fit into various urban locations.

The DOE grant of $100,000 covers only a portion of the cost of participating in the decathlon and additional funds will be raised by the team for the project. Construction of the house will take place on the grounds of SCI-Arc, which is located in the Arts District on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles.

An exhibition of the proposal will be on display at SCI-Arc, beginning April 19. At Caltech, there will be an exhibit on Earth Day, April 22. The team will also have a booth at the AltBuild Expo in Santa Monica, May 7-8.

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The Solar Decathlon Contests

Like the Olympic decathlon, the 2011 Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests, which are designed to gauge how well the houses perform and how livable and affordable they are.

The 10 Solar Decathlon 2011 contests are:

  • Architecture contest (juried)
    Teams are required to design and build attractive, high-performance houses that integrate solar and energy-efficient technologies seamlessly into the design. Points are awarded for architectural elements, holistic design, lighting, inspiration and documentation.
  • Market Appeal contest (juried)
    Each team will build its house for a target client of its choosing. The Market Appeal jury will evaluate the responsiveness of the house design to the characteristics and requirements of the target client, taking into consideration livability, marketability and buildability.
  • Engineering contest (juried)
    The houses competing in the Solar Decathlon will represent the best of modern engineering. For the Engineering contest, a jury of professional engineers will evaluate each house for functionality, efficiency, innovation, reliability and documentation.
  • Communications contest (juried)
    From team websites to signage and public tours on the National Mall, the communications contest challenges teams to educate others about their houses, their experiences, and their projects. Teams will receive points for delivering clear and consistent messages, images that represent the vision, process and result of each project, and creativity in engaging audiences.
  • Affordability contest (juried)
    The affordability contest encourages teams to design and build affordable houses that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems. In this way, the teams will demonstrate how energy-saving features can help consumers save money today. A professional estimator will determine the construction cost of each house.
  • Comfort Zone contest (measured)
    Teams design their houses to keep temperature and humidity steady, uniform, and comfortable. Full points are awarded for maintaining narrow temperature and relative humidity ranges during specified periods of time.
  • Hot Water contest (measured)
    This contest assesses whether a house's water heating system can supply all the hot water needed for daily washing and bathing. Teams score points by successfully completing several daily 15-gallon "hot water draws," with the goal to deliver 15 gallons of hot water in 10 minutes or less.
  • Appliances contest (measured)
    This contest is designed to mimic the appliance use of an average U.S. home. Points are earned for refrigerating and freezing food, washing and drying laundry, and running the dishwasher.
  • Home Entertainment contest (measured and juried)
    The home entertainment contest gauges whether a house has what it takes to be a home. How well does it accommodate the pleasures of living, such as sharing meals with friends and family, watching movies in a home theater, and surfing the Web? How well does it accommodate a small home office for a telecommuter?
  • Energy Balance contest (measured)
    In the energy balance contest, a team receives full points for producing at least as much energy as its house needs, thus achieving a net energy consumption of zero during contest week.


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Read the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon website—featuring news, project photos and other competition details.
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Director's Message

Dear friends:

We're extremely proud that the SCI-Arc/Caltech team has advanced to the next stage of the federally sponsored Solar Decathlon competition, which will conclude with the construction of the most progressive new building and energy related typologies on display on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Prefabrication is an enduring subject for architects. SCI-Arc has no interest in simply reiterating that long-running discussion.

We're very much aware that the topic of sustainability in housing and its social and political consequences has become an international topic, central to the discourse on new uses and applications of alternative energy systems.

We expect the SCI-Arc/Caltech team not only to sustain these progressive social and political aspirations, but to orchestrate them and to integrate energy concerns in an abstract technical sense with the human concerns of day-to-day livability.

We anticipate the work of the team will be speculative and creative, and that it will contribute significantly to the evolving redefinition of the interrelationship of housing, construction technology, energy efficiency, and the sociology of housing.

We at SCI-Arc intend to support the work effort of our design and engineering team in whatever manner is required, to enable these most imaginative of students to produce an extraordinary and precedent setting result.

See you on the Mall.

--Eric Owen Moss