Missouri Designs the Chameleon House

Missouri University of Science and Technology designed a house that can adapt to its changing environment. They received 1st place in Energy Balance, creating more energy than the house used.

missouri solar decathlon 2013 home

The Team used PV for electricity and radiant solar for temperature moderation.

This house had smart passive solar features built into the house. Note the overhang, concrete floor, ventilation and southern solarium to help moderate the temperature of the home.  The overall cost of the house with all the appliances and energy systems is $275,364.

In their 5th Solar Decathlon, the team from Missouri created the Chameleon House with a home automation system that is run from a central server.  It combines weather forecasts and conditions with the home’s data to manage the its central HVAC systems to anticipate weather changes.  (Smart data usage is one of the coolest things around.) The windows in the home were also motorized to provide natural ventilation when desired.

The Solar Decathlon truly tests a home’s performance. In order to receive a score in the Entertainment event, each team must host two dinner parties and screen an accompanying film. This tests the home’s general electrical systems and the combined efficiency of the appliances. They aren’t sitting around saving electricity and using candles. They’re watching films on large screen TVs, pan searing then baking salmon, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on. It’s all powered by the sun. Here are the Dinner Menus and Recipes from Missouri. (9 page pdf includes a recipe for a banana split cheesecake.)

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  • Seasonally transitional exterior siding panels alternate between a light, reflective side and a dark, absorptive side.
  • A south-facing solarium expands the floor plan to an outdoor living space.
  • Folding glass doors separate the solarium from the kitchen and dining area—not only regulating the space but also serving as a passive solar feature and buffer to the outside environment.
  • A partition wall separates the bedroom and main living area—or can be rolled into a closet to create additional space.




  • The prominent photovoltaic system is optimized for flat roofs and uses reflectors between the rows of panels to increase total energy production.
  • A mixed-mode residential HVAC system marries the automation system and the house HVAC system.
  • A radiant heating system with tubes beneath the concrete floor circulates water to heat the interior space from the bottom up.
  • A predictive-control home automation system uses weather data to predict hour-by-hour temperatures and adjust accordingly.


Final Overall Scores

The team finished in 16th place with a total of  840.455 points.

The team finished in 16th place with a total of 840.455 points.

A student from Missouri University of Science and Technology explains features of the home during the public tours.

A student from Missouri University of Science and Technology explains features of the home during the public tours.

All of the teams had a great learning experience in the Solar Decathlon to design, build, finish, dismantle, transport, rebuild, compete in the competition, and display the homes (with a smile, over and over and over again) to help educate the public.

They all had amazing, sometimes arduous, yet highly educational and rewarding experiences. The final score is a summation of task completion, monitored performance of the homes and jury evaluations within 10 events.

Features and technologies sections from solardecathlon.gov.

Visit the team’s website: solarhouse.mst.edu

Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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