5 Design Tips from the USC Solar Decathlon

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Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

This month marked the Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges college teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered homes. Kicking off on October 3rd, the Decathlon took place in Irvine, CA, with 20 teams from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The submissions never fail to amaze, combining innovative technologies and slick design to create the ultimate in efficient living. Here are a few quick tips inspired by USC’s entry, the fluxHome.

1. Use Sliding Doors

Solar Decathlon Kitchen
Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

In lieu of conventional doors or partitions, the fluxHome uses oversized, sliding doors. They work to seal off private rooms or open completely to create a large communal area. Sliding doors also free up floor space, providing a great solution for smaller homes.

2. Extend Your Living Space

Solar Decathlon fluxHome Living Area
Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

To enlarge the home’s living area, the fluxHome includes an exterior patio, which increases usable square footage. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. The patio also features a vertical garden that adds visual interest while improving air quality.

3. Create an Open Kitchen

Solar Decathlon fluxHome Kitchen Table
Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

The kitchen sits at the heart of this solar home and opens onto the main living area, with views to both the television and the outdoors. Its simple, modern design, which includes Caesarstone Blizzard countertops, perfectly blends into the fluxHome’s overall aesthetic.

4. Use Smart Lighting

Solar Decathlon fluxHome White Walls
Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

LED lighting, a movable skylight, light shelves and window “hoods” combine to provide efficient lighting while keeping energy consumption low. If these options are not feasible for your own home, simple motion-sensor light switches are an equally smart investment.

5. Maximize Space

Solar Decathlon fluxHome Bathroom
Image: Benny Chan / Fotoworks

The fluxHome effectively uses every inch of space, including a combined shower stall/soaking tub. Though small, the bathroom manages to feel spacious thanks to loads of natural sunlight and lightly colored materials, like Caesarstone Blizzard.

You can see all the entries on SolarDecathlon.gov. Which home is your favorite?

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Desiré is a designer, blogger, and lover of all things glamorous. Though primarily a self-taught decorator, Desiré studied at The Art Institute, where she honed a distinct aesthetic largely influenced by the Modern Glamour movement, the theme of her popular design blog, Sukio. Not only is she considered a "closet fashionista," discreetly stashing handbags and shoes whenever possible, but, as an MIT graduate, she’s also an undercover nerd. Fashion, nerdom, and several years as a Washingtonian have combined to shape her unique perspective on interior design.