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Updated 2:00 PM January 19, 2004



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Building the house of the future
TCAUP team selected to compete in 2005 Solar Decathlon

A team of architecture faculty and students from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP) is on a mission to conceptualize, design and build a solar-powered house that uses only renewable sources of energy, doesn't disturb the ground on which it sits, and appeals to a young, hip audience.

MiSo Studio participants, from left: Peter Diune, Colin McDermott, Peter Cornue, Julianna Lieu, Krystyna Zelenay, John Beeson (MiSo Project Manager), Bradley Smith, Ryan Brouwer and Eric Mansuy. (Photo courtesy TCAUP)

The Michigan Solar House (MiSo) will be U-M's entry in the 2005 Solar Decathlon, an international competition designed to promote investigation and innovation in energy-efficient building.

Construction is planned for January 2005.

The competition began last summer when 19 schools of architecture and engineering were selected by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to participate in the Solar Decathlon. The challenge for all teams is to design, build and operate the most efficient solar-powered home. The houses, which will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2005, must supply all their own power as well as the amount required to meet the occupants' transportation needs during the competition.

From a cultural perspective, MiSo seeks to reevaluate people's priorities, says Faculty Coordinator and Lecturer, Kristine Synnes. For example, MiSo distinguishes itself by addressing energy-saving technology from the gadget-savvy perspective of younger generations.

A thermal storage device, an example of the types of technologies the MiSo team may incorporate into its design for a sustainable structure. (Photo courtesy TCAUP)

MiSo is a flexible home, smaller in scale to reflect the changing lifestyles of young people, yet it offers adjustability and mobility.

Most importantly, MiSo challenges the conventional image of the energy-conscious house, says faculty coordinator and lecturer Chris Knapp. By offering a contemporary product that responds to state-of-the-art technology, MiSo allows owners to have more, while using less.

Showcasing TCAUP's new technology resources, MiSo explores smart production technologies and a component-based mass customization approach. Utilizing these new production methods allows for a lightweight, flexible, easily transportable and logically buildable architectural product. The team plans to use active solar, passive solar and energy-minimizing systems in an innovative fashion.

This attention to detail confirms TCAUP's reputation for excellence in design and technology and strengthens its position as a laboratory for innovative building, says Tom Buresh, principal investigator and Architecture program chair.

In addition to using new technologies, MiSo initiates communication within the University as a whole.

"This project is exciting on so many levels," Knapp says. "Not only is it an opportunity to re-examine the way architecture addresses questions of sustainability, manufacturing, marketing and domestic life, but it also represents a unique opportunity within the University to work in a highly interdisciplinary fashion. We have faculty support ranging from Art, Architecture, Engineering, Business and SNRE—which creates a really exceptional opportunity for the students involved."

MiSo is fully integrated into the TCAUP curriculum. MiSo Manual, a graduate research seminar focusing on the architectural research for the project, was underway during the fall semester. The end product for the class is a primer for the design of the house. During the current term, TCAUP students will have the opportunity to elect the MiSo Prototype Studio course in which they will develop, test and modify the MiSo prototype. Several other courses offered throughout the project will integrate the project further into the curriculum, including courses focused on architectural technology and history, information and building technology, and art and design.

After the unveiling of the house at the Solar Decathlon, Team MiSo will continue the project locally. Working with governmental and nonprofit housing partners, the team will move the solar house into the community for use by a real-world client.

To learn more about the Solar Decathlon, visit For more information on the MiSo project, visit

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