Monday, October 12, 2009

Louisiana College Students Bring Solar-Powered Home to D.C.

Can Students Win National Homebuilding Competition?

How much would you pay to live in a one-bedroom home totally powered by the sun, built to withstand Hurricane-force winds and has an aesthetic appeal with a touch of a southern accent? Does a price range of $120,000- $150,000 sound fair? This week, you can tour the home and meet the team of student designers in Washington, D.C.

Team BeauSoleil, a group of University of Louisiana, Lafayette graduate students, is one of 19 other university teams from around the world participating in the seventh annual Solar Decathlon. The annual competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy turns the National Mall into a village of solar-powered homes, designed exclusively by college students. Students must meet strict guidelines and can only build an 800-square-foot home. “We approached it as an architecture competition,” says Chris Leger, 26, a UL at Lafayette architecture graduate student.

Team BeauSoleil’s team meticulous design of the rambler home, shows just how they kept the Gulf Coast resident in mind. In addition to the home being able to take on Hurricane-force winds, the wooden fence and wood used as boarders around the windows can be pulled apart and fits perfectly over the windows and doors. It seems like a minor detail but it makes a major difference, during Hurricane season. There’s no need to nail large pieces of plywood around the house. “Taking it from the design phase into reality is an amazing experience,” says Leger.

The home can also be elevated and put on piers to protect it from flooding. The front and back doors open like a vault and can become a functional breezeway, eliminating the need for overuse of an air conditioning unit. “It shows that we have really bright students, compassionate about preserving our culture and they’re innovative,” says Christine Payton, a University of Louisiana representative.

The team’s design is making quite an impression on visitors. Aside from its durability, the house is moderately priced, cozy, appliances are wheelchair accessible and there’s a remote control mosquito screen. “I like the way they used the natural wood. It’s usually on the side but this is very pleasing. I would live in that house,” says Arizona resident, Patty Bensel.

The Solar Decathlon ends on Oct. 16, when judges announce the overall 2009 Solar Decathlon winner. In addition to hopefully winning the competition, Team BeauSoleil would like to see the home go into mass production. “Building this home taught me that we can all live just as comfortable off the things nature gives us,” says Greg Jefferson, 28, an architecture graduate student. Team BeauSoleil plans to display their home on campus and later sell the home in the community.

Getting selected as a competitor was an arduous undertaking. Students had to submit their plans and impress a committee of engineers, scientists and DOE experts. Thousands of teams compete for a chance and must prove they are prepared to start and complete the homes, as they abide by strict structural and safety requirements. The DOE provides selected teams with $100,000 in grants to help cover the initial cost of building the home. Teams are responsible for any additional costs they incur.

All homes are closed Oct. 14, so judges can have exclusive access to the homes and evaluate the design, efficiency and durability of each home. The overall winner of the Solar Decathlon 2009 competition will be announced Oct. 16. In traditional Louisiana style, the BeauSoleil jazz band will play on the porch later that evening. Log on to for more information. For more information about the University of Louisiana at Lafayette team, log on to

Please send all comments about this article to Maniko Barthelemy at


  1. look at what aspiring minds can come up with. hopefully they can come up with mord designs to benefit those along the gulf coast

  2. The U.S. Dept of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathon was such an incredible experience for us. As a graduate student in architecture, I realize the invaluable knowledge we have gained by participating. We are so proud to have gone to this outstanding and prestigious international competition to proudly represent the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Southern Culture, and the State of Louisiana. Bringing home the market viability and people’s choice award really shows that we did our best to meet the needs and desires of the people by designing a home that’s hurricane resistant and culturally-relevant.