You may be familiar with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition for solar-powered houses constructed by college students. While many of the projects to emerge from that competition are quite astonishing, so is the price tag attached to the vast majority; it is not uncommon for schools to spend a quarter of a million dollars financing each contest entry.
That is why educational specialist Suzette Bienvenue of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) thought it would be cool to start up a new competition. The idea would be much the same in principle, but the challenge would be to build eco-friendly tiny homes instead. That would keep the cost down.
SMUD’s Tiny House Competition first called for participants in 2014. Over the past two years, teams have worked hard to innovate solar-powered homes on wheels which consume zero net energy.
Bienvenue wasn’t sure what to expect when she started the competition. She thought the event showcasing the entrants’ houses might draw a crowd of around 3,000, and expected mostly niche subcultures to show up. But the crowd that toured the tiny houses ended up closer to 20,000, most of which she described as “much more mainstream” than she expected.
Let’s check out the winners!
rEvolve House: Santa Clara University
The first place overall winner of the competition was the rEvolve House built by students at Santa Clara University.
The home measures 238 square feet and was constructed for the non-profit organization Operation Freedom Paws, which works with veterans. That gardening feature built right into the wall of the home is very cool, perfect for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers in a compact environment.
Here you can see the kitchen, which features a comfortable bench as well as a fold-down table. Below is another angle:
This room in back can serve as a bedroom or general living space (or both). Notice the clever storage with the bookshelf. It is situated very close to the ceiling and hardly takes up any wall space at all, yet it provides plenty of room for the books. Below it is what appears to be a foldout bed.
Here you can see the toilet and shower. Check out the stylish design accents with the tiles and the floor.
Here is a feature I just love! I hardly ever see tiny houses or RVs with roofs converted into decks, and it seems such a waste! This deck offers a spacious seating area, gorgeous views all around, and railings to keep occupants safe.
Here is one more photo of the rEvolve House at night. I always enjoy sharing photos of tiny homes taken both during the day and the night time, because the different lighting draws your attention to different features of the house and really gives you a different feel for the environment. While looking at this photo, I noticed the amazing texture of the wall behind the sink—very striking.
Notice how the solar collectors on the roof also function as shades for the porch? Very smart!
THIMBY: University of California, Berkley
Another of the competition’s top winners is THIMBY, which stands for “Tiny House In My Backyard.” THIMBY won four different awards at the competition, including “Water Conservation” and “Best Craftsmanship.” The home was built as a prototype for a zero net energy neighborhood of tiny homes in Richmond, California. It measures 170 square feet.
The exterior has a beautiful contemporary simplicity to it that really grabs the eye. The home includes numerous novel environmental features, such as a smart home monitoring system which can check the weather, an activated carbon filter combo “living wall” for recycling graywater, and a 2.2 kW PV array of solar panels integrated with a 6.4 kWh Tesla Powerwall lithium ion battery.
Here is a look at the kitchen. I wish there were a wider angle view here, but this is the best shot of this space I could find.
And here you can see the loft. This home is not as “finished” inside as the rEvolve, but that is because the majority of time and effort went into the technical design of the structure itself.
Here is one more photo of the outside of the house which shows the panels lifted to let in the light. Very cool!
I hope you enjoyed these photos of the rEolve and the THIMBY. Be sure to visit both projects at their links below to learn more about their features and the hard work that went into their development. I have also included the link for the SMUD Tiny House Competition. There you can view more of the tiny houses which were built for the contest. A lot of talented participants made amazing leaps forward with eco-friendly and cost-effective housing design, and all the entries are well worth checking out!
SMUD Tiny House Competition: https://www.smud.org/en/about-smud/environment/renewable-energy/tiny-house-competition.htm