Santa Clara University Creates a Radiant House

Santa Clara University built a house that spaciously radiates toward the sun. Called the Radiant House, the 980 square foot house  received a 1st place in Comfort Zone, Entertainment and Energy Balance, making more energy from the sun than they used. (Nice job!)

Santa Clara Radiant House

The team from Santa Clara University did well in this year’s Decathlon with three first place finishes in Comfort Zone, Energy Balance and Entertainment.

They also received 4th place in Appliances and 5th place in Engineering to finish in 11th place overall. The cost of the house with all the appliances and energy system included was $335,732.

The Solar Decathlon highlights creativity and truly tests a home’s performance. This home utilized unprocessed bamboo in its structural system taking sustainable materials to new heights.

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, making multi-course meals that include chicken piccata with capers followed by homemade peach ice cream, and leaving the lights on. It’s all powered by the sun. Here are the Dinner Menus and recipes from the University of Santa Clara (17 page pdf).

Photo Gallery

I took the opportunity to see the Radiant House while it was open to the public. Click or tap on an image to see it in a larger format. Click or tap the right side of the image to view the next image.


  • A structural wall and joist system is composed of a blend of standard lumber and bamboo—much of which is in raw, unrefined form to avoid the need for unsustainable treatment.
  • Solar panels are seamlessly integrated into the roof structure using an integrated rail system.
  • A charging station is located at the front of the house to allow homeowners to recharge their electric vehicle with extra power from the solar array.
  • The generous living space features high ceilings and clerestory windows that fill the interior with light and open to allow hot air to rise and escape.




  • The radiant heating and cooling system embedded in the ceiling drywall uses radiant panels to heat the house with hot water or cool the house with cold water—ensuring a uniform environment.
  • The rooftop photovoltaic system incorporates passive cooling below the solar panels to increase their efficiency.
  • As part of the water heating and storage system, a solar thermal panel supplies heat to a tank containing organic phase-change material. This tank is used to maintain the temperature of the domestic hot water system.
  • An application custom-written by the Santa Clara University team monitors the entire house; provides a real-time display of energy performance; and controls the temperature, lights, sliding doors, windows, and blinds.


Final Overall Score

The team finished in  place with a total of  points.

The team finished in 11th place with a total of 888,929 points.

All of the teams achieved a lot 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 cool thing about the Solar Decathlon is that you can see cut-aways of the insulation in the walls and ask questions.

The cool thing about the Solar Decathlon is that you can see cut-aways of the insulation in the walls and ask questions.

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

Visit the team’s website:

Keya Lea

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

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