CU’s championship solar house features
many waste-reduction elements
The University of Colorado’s
international champion Solar Decathlon house included many waste-reduction
features, including the use of vermicomposting, recycling, a composting
toilet and biodegradable cornstarch and bamboo dishes.
The zero-energy, solar powered
home – named BioS(h)IP – featured an area for recycling,
composting and trash built into the kitchen cabinets. Three large
recycling bins were also placed outside the home. CU Recycling
Development director Jack DeBell worked with students to “design
for recycling,” making recycling as easy and convenient
as traditional trash disposal.
Along with the recycling bins
outside, the house featured a vermiculture bin to use worms to
produce rich compost and nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Nearly 50,000 people waiting
in line to tour the house over the week long Solar Decathlon Contest
in Washington, D.C. were able to see the worms in the vermiculture
bin and learn the vermicomposting process.
“Recycling and vermiculture
composting are key ingredients in the proper functioning of the
BioS(h)IP and any healthy, ecologically friendly home,”
said Julee Herdt, professor of architecture and faculty advisor
of the CU Solar Decathlon team. “We were very pleased to
have had the opportunity to work with CU Recycling in the design
of our system.”
The solar house also featured
a composting toilet from Envirolet that comes with a natural substance
that helps to break down waste quickly. There is a small motor
attached that turns the waste and a vent so the smell goes out
through the roof. The waste can then be used as garden compost.
“It sounds scary and gross,
but it actually works quite well,” said Jon Previtali, a
master’s student in student in CU’S Building Systems
Program working on the project.
The City of Longmont will work
with the CU Solar Decathlon Team to demonstrate the city’s
first example of a composting toilet through the BioS(h)IP project.
The house will be located permanently in Prospect New Town in
Longmont, with the Envirolet composting toilet included in the
The use of cornstarch and bamboo
plants and utensils also demonstrates the team’s commitment
to waste reduction and minimal petroleum usage. The cornstarch
plastic plates are just like plastic, but can decompose more quickly.
Bamboo was used because it is a rapidly growing plant and an extremely
sustainable wood choice.
The house was towed to Washington,
D.C. and back with a truck fueled by biodiesel made from waste
CU was one of 18 universities
competing in the Department of Energy’s annual Solar Decathlon,
which challenged students to design, build and operate the most
attractive, efficient and comfortable solar home. CU picked up
the first-place trophy at the Washington, D.C. competition for
the second year in a row.
The house is open for tours.