Check it out: Solar house is open to public Aug. 24 before international contest


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Phoenix House is headed cross-country soon, but the public is invited to tour the student-built solar-powered house Aug. 24 at the University of Louisville before it is trucked to California for international competition.

    The Kentucky-Indiana team members will host an 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. open house to show off their entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon. The entrance to the former Kentucky Trailer site is off Third Street just south of Eastern Parkway and the J.B. Speed School of Engineering back lot.

    Team Kentuckiana, including students and faculty from UofL, Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and the University of Kentucky, is among 20 that qualified internationally to design, build and exhibit the solar-powered homes.The team will reassemble its house for the Oct. 3-13 contest in Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.

    The energy-efficient, wood-and-steel-framed modular structure is a prototype two-bedroom residence meant to serve as a sustainable, permanent housing solution after natural disasters; the team chose the socially responsible design after last spring’s damaging tornadoes in Kentucky and Indiana and named it after the mythical bird symbolizing rebirth and hope. Phoenix House is designed to be durable, affordable, rapidly delivered and capable of producing more energy than it uses.

    Some key energy-saving features include LED (light-emitting diode) lights, insulated panels, efficient appliances and a heat pump water heater that shares energy with the air-conditioning system. The exterior has a sloping “butterfly” roof for solar and rainwater collection, a planter-based food garden, vine-covered screens and a gray-water filtering system. The two bedrooms and sofa bed are designed to sleep six, and extendable dining table seats eight. A loft, multiple closets and shelving units provide storage space.

    Decathlon houses are designed to highlight renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products and appliances already available to homeowners. The biennial event features 10 contests: architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance.

    The team’s effort has been supported for more than a year by UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering; Ball State’s College of Architecture, Interior Design and Construction Management programs; UofL’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research; UofL’s College of Business; UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences (communication and English departments); and UK’s School of Engineering.

    For more information, check or contact Jim Graham, 502-852-0475 or, or Mark McGinley, 502-852-4068 or

    Judy Hughes
    Judy Hughes is a senior communications and marketing coordinator for UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing and associate editor of UofL Magazine. She previously worked in news as a writer and editor for a daily newspaper and The Associated Press.