The Solar Homestead is Appalachian State University's entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Inspired by the pioneer spirit of the early settlers in the mountain region of North Carolina, we have designed a self-sustaining zero energy home.

Monday, August 29, 2011

VIP Send Off Party

The Solar Homestead team had another big push this last week to finish up final details in the house to get ready to host our sponsors, supporting Appalachian State University faculty and staff, as well as our family and friends.

Dave Lee speaking to guests that packed into the high bay

Over 400 guests attended to help recognize our sponsors and students who have made this project possible. Everyone had a great time touring the home and eating delicious barbecue at the Appalachian State University Solar Decathlon Headquarters.

five Decathletes ready to give tours
Team members gave tours of our homestead after the address from UNC system President Tom Ross, Appalachian State University's Chancellor Dr. Kenneth Peacock, Dean of College of Fine and Applied Arts Glenda Treadaway, and our own Communications Manager Dave Lee.

This was such a valuable experience for the Solar Homestead team to get a taste of the kind of hard hitting questions that can come from industry professionals so that we are all well rehearsed for tours up on the National Mall's West Potomac Park September 23 - Oct 2.

We would like to thank everyone for making this such an incredible event, and for making the Solar Homestead possible; it would not be possible for us to have done this without you. We feel fortunate to see such overwhelming support from our local community and beyond!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Decathlete of the Week Part-3

Our third Decathlete of the Week. No smoke in mirrors here, Sammy's videography skills will amaze you.

Sammy Cortino
Sammy capturing family time in the Solar Homestead

Job Title: Creative Services Director

Area of Study: Broadcast/ Theater

How did you get involved? "The ASU communications department told me about this and I was so enthusiastic that I was the first in my department to tackle the project."

What do you like to do with you time off from the Solar Homestead? "I'm a professional illusionist- so the business and production aspects of that. I also love music, hiking, and running."

What was your favorite part of producing the Solar Homestead videos? "Every project is different and because of that I improve in my skills. I love the spur of the moment camera work I do, where I record parts of the building process and various projects: you never know what's going to happen - so you always are on your toes to not only make sure you're in focus but also to make sure you effectively capture the moment on film."

Magic's Royal Duke Sammy Cortino- Dare to Dream
What are your plans after the Solar Decathlon 2011? " I have the premiere of my touring stage illusion show on January 27th at the Old Post Office Playhouse in Hickory and then I'm basing my magic business in Nashville while I tour."

What is your favorite magic trick to perform? "My card manipulations or my levitation."

What would you do with your Flex-Om? "I'd turn it into a studio."

Fun-facts: Every minute of video takes 10 hours to produce. Over 30 hours of HD video has been shot since last October at a total of 350 gigabytes of data.

The Solar Homestead would like to thank Sammy Cortino for his diligence and organized planning for all of our video deliverables. Your expertise and creativity have been invaluable to the team, and we couldn't have done it without you! Thank You

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Decathlete of the Week - Part 2

The Solar Homestead team proudly presents our second Decathlete of the Week:

Jill Yerden
Jill and her 1,000 page baby -- the Project Manual

Her outstanding work and commitment to the Project Manual last week ensured a comprehensive and complete look at all pieces of the Solar Homestead.

Job Title: Design Team Member

Area of Study: Building Science with a concentration in Architectural Technology and Design, and Spanish.

How did you get involved? "Chad asked me one day after class a year ago, and I've stuck with it ever since."

What is your favorite section of the Project Manual? "One of the last deliverables that I had for the Project Manual in March, I added in a snuggie to the specs just to see if they actually did read the whole thing -- they did. I took it out, but I wish I had put it back in for this one since the judges have less than 30 minutes to review the entire document and I don't think they'd find it this time."

What do you like to do with your time off from the Solar Homestead? "Read a good book, enjoy the outdoors, hang out with sisters, and catch up on some needed sleep."

What was the first thing you wanted to do after finishing the Project Manual? "Have a good meal and sleep after a week of barely sleeping. I went out with some people on the Communication Team for dinner and by 8:30 that night I was out."

After traveling in Spain where would you like to travel next? Definitely Ireland.

What would you do with your OM? "I would use it to store all my old, redlined copies of the Project Manual."

The Solar Homestead team would like to thank Jill for all of her long hours working to edit and finish the project manual! We couldn't have done it without you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Decathlete of the Week - Part 1

Our huge collection of EIGHT deliverables last week wouldn't have been possible without the stand-out performances of all of our Decathletes. We had so many amazing students who stepped up to the challenge and sacrificed their sleep for our team's success, that we have now chosen to feature the three students whose hard work made these deliverables happen. Congratulations to each of you!

Meredith Smith: Revit Master extraordinaire
First is Meredith Smith

Job Title: Interior Designer

Area of Study: Interior Design

How did you get involved?
"The Solar Homestead had my interior design class do a brief interior design project, and the parameters were intriguing enough that I wanted to continue on the project after I was approached by Chelsea and Jose."

Merdith showing off one of our rough models on a tour.
How do you blow off steam from the Solar Homestead?
"I like to go on 10 mile runs."

What is the coolest thing you have ever done?
 "I would have to say scuba diving in Boneaire. My dad was a big dive guy in the 70's. He'd skip his classes in med-school and head  down in the Keys. He was known as the Phantom of med-school. He'd come into exams an hour late, still salty and tan and blonde. He'd take off his aviators and have to beg his teachers to let him even try the exam. He'd pass them though. I know it's not the seventies, and I know I can't drive a motorcycle through Mexico by myself, or strap my sleeping bag to the top of a train to hitchhike to Canada, but I want stories like that. The best versions I can."

Why do you like designing?
"I love beauty. I love man's pursuit of some beyond just function. that could have taken me into a lot of fields though. I choose design because I like problem solving, analysis, and order."

If you could write any Syfi novel what would be the general plot?

"OK. Plot. Main setting: a dessert town in the west, current day. Half the land is owned by ranchers and half by a military air base. One of the ranches bordering the government land is owned by a broken man, now an alcoholic. His daughter, 25, runs the ranch, her mother died in childbirth, her sister unborn. The male lead is a twenty-something Mexican-American. His family works the surrounding ranches. He left to join the air-force though. He's is assigned to come back to the local air-base to test a new plane. On one of the test flights, his fighter-jet crashes, and he's stranded on the middle of the girl's 500 acre ranch. Communications are down. He starts walking. Dehydration sets in and he passes out. He wakes up in a cave. There are dragons there. Yep, dragons. No they don't talk. Common misconception."

The Solar Homestead would like to thank Meredith for all of her hard work on the design and structural drawings of the Solar Homestead. Your critical thinking and out-of-the-box solutions helped the Solar Homestead to turn our last deliverable in complete and on time. Let us all thank and congratulate Meredith on her dedication. Way to go!!

Stay tuned in to our other decathlete of the week blogs featuring Jill Yerden and Sammy Cortino...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sponsor of the Month


 As a diversified technology company serving customers and communities with innovative products and services, 3M has over six businesses that have earned a leading global market position. 

Reflective film used on our student-built solar thermal unit
Over a year ago, 3M partnered with the Solar Homestead and provided the team with various products for the home that include safety equipment, LED lighting, and reflective films. 

Since the conception of 3M, the company has focused on its sustainability efforts through conservation and innovation that resulted in the company's reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds worldwide from 1990-2010.

The Solar Homestead is proud to announce 3M as a valued sponsor in this monumental project.

For more information about 3M products visit:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Extended the date of the Registry until August 18th

The Solar Homestead is giving YOU more time to buy from our registries. So far we have been extremely successful so we have extended the time and added to our registries!

 If you're looking to get involved in some way, consider donating something from our registry, and expect to see it on display at the National Mall. We still have items on our registries for Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn to be purchased but we would also like to inform you of our new registry at CB2. 

Below are all three links to our registries:


Crate and Barrel

Pottery Barn

Who ever wishes to donate has until August 18th to purchase items on our list. If in the store, the registry falls under the name, Solar(first name) Decathlon (last name), or they can find the co-register which is Ariel Shockley. 

The mailing address is on the website, but if in the store mail to:
1100 East King Street Boone, NC 28607. 

Please email us to confirm your purchase and to receive an easy tax exempt form at Also if you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

Thank you for your help and support,
The Solar Homestead Team

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Solar Homestead Construction Up-date!!!

The construction of the Solar Homestead has come a long way since our last construction update. After typical construction delays, our house is well on its way to being moved outside this weekend to finish testing our solar energy systems.

Trevor and Austin have been framing out the Trombe wall and installing the barn door rail. The phase change material passive collectors have come in today and installation will start tomorrow. Our scientists are thrilled!

Trevor, Nate, and Austin have been finishing the flashing details on the solar canopy ensuring that the canopy will have no leaks.

Everyone has pitched in to the installation of the kitchen cabinets, countertops, and placement of sink and appliances.

Stephen, Travis, and Mike have been working hard to make our hardwood flooring beautiful and perfectly installed.

With construction going on at the Solar Homestead almost 24 hours a day, the Communications team would like to give a BIG THANKS to the Construction team for working so hard to make sure the house was set up for us to shoot our market appeal video. The Architecture team did a great job with helping to stage the home, as well!

We are going to keep up the hard work and everyone on the team is VERY excited to show the Solar Homestead on the National Mall in just a little over one month.

Come visit us and all the other teams for the U. S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 Public Exhibit days on the National Mall in Washington DC, September 23rd - Oct 1st.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Decathlete of the Week!

Stacy displays the wooden table she worked hard to complete!
Stacy Dixon

Job title: Furniture designer

Area of study: Double major Industrial Design concentration in Product Design / Building Science concentration in Construction Management and Business minor

When did you join the team: April 2011

How did you get involved? "I knew about it, and I needed an internship, and I was curious if they needed any help with furniture designing. They did so it sounded GREAT to me."

Stacy smiles for the camera at one of the weekly cookouts!
What do you like to do with your free time away from Solar Homestead? "I work full time at Kilwinn's, so that is what I have been doing all summer, but if i had time I would like to go hiking or go to the beach."

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate peanut butter and key lime pie. I like to mix them together."

Favorite Pandora station? Biggie Smalls :)

Stacy, the Solar Homestead team would like to thank you for all of your hard work on all of the furniture design, construction back in the high bay, and general dedication to the team. We can't wait to share all of your creative endeavors on the National Mall!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Decathlete of the Week!

Zach Hoffman strikes a pose for the camera
Congratulations your the Decathlete of the Week!
Zach Hoffman

Job Tile: Design Team Member

Area of Study: BS in Building Science concentrating in Architectural Technology and Design

When did you join the team: April 2011

How did you get involved? Chad and Jason asked me if I wanted to come on and help with the drawings with John Arnaud.

Zach Hoffman takes a much needed brake!
Pot Luck Lunch!!! YUM
What do you like to do outside of your duties at Solar Homestead? "I love biking and reading. Freelance design and spending time outside."

Now that you are on to graduate school at NC State, what three most valuable things did you take away from Appalachian State?

1. The friendships
2. Dedication and follow through
3. Life lessons and knowledge to help me succeed.

Favorite outfit after 4 am for all-nighters at the Solar Homestead?
"Definitely my fleece sweatpants, undershirt, energy bracelets, and a good piece of headgear."

The Solar Homestead would like to thank Zach for all of his hard work and congratulate him on his future at architecture school at NC State. We wish you the best and you'll be missed!