SCI-Arc & Caltech Forge DALE

The combined team of Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology forged DALE, the Dynamic Augmented Living Environment

Always having creative entries, balancing fun, leisure and energy efficiency.

The SCI-Arch/CalTech impresses with creative entries, balancing fun, leisure and energy efficiency.

They received 1st place in the Energy Balance competition, creating more solar energy than they used, as well as 4th place in Communication and 5th in Affordability. The overall cost of the house with the energy system and all the appliances is $274,263.

This team creates ingenious homes that shine in brilliant creativity. In the previous Solar Decathlon, the team unveiled CHIP. This year, they return with DALE. The home has been designed and engineered to move to the occupant’s desires and needs.

The Solar Decathlon consists of both measured and juried competitions. I have only been to two SD competitions, but it seems that the respective juries tend to be rather conservative in their appreciation and appraisal of home design. In my opinion, they have overlooked this team’s creative strengths. But onto another competitions.

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 projectors, using blenders for milk shakes, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on. It’s all powered by the sun. Here are the Dinner Menus and Recipes from the SCI-Arc/Caltec team. (17 page pdf with recipes for frying churros and fish tacos. Mmm.)

Photo Gallery

I toured DALE and was thoroughly impressed by the team’s creativity and overall implementation.



  • Two prefabricated modules move across a rail system and open easily to create an outdoor living space that triples the inhabitable square footage.
  • A vinyl exterior skin provides a tight, waterproof body glove and replaces traditional sheathing and finish.
  • Two partitions suspended from ceiling tracks in the living module divide the house into a bedroom, living room, and home office—or vanish to create one large living area.
  • A core module houses the mechanical room, bathroom, and commercial-sized kitchen.
  • Sliding solar canopies offset from each module have vertical louver panels for shade, ventilation, and privacy.
  • Interchangeable platforms can vary from a solar thermal collector to a sports rack to an integrated hammock.




  • A steel superstructure with a pair of motorized bridge crane end trucks moves the modules.
  • Spring-loaded cable and hose reel assemblies with a fixed connection to a municipal water and power source hold all the hoses and cables as they travel with the movable modules.
  • A 28-panel photovoltaic array produces all of the house’s electricity.
  • The HVAC system uses state-of-the-art solar water heating technology with solar thermal evacuated tube collectors to maintain a comfortable interior temperature.
  • A house monitoring system collects solar energy production data, monitors energy and water consumption, and controls indoor temperatures.
  • A unique safety system monitors the movement of the house.

Final Overall Scores

The team finished in 14th place with a total of 868.666 points.

Sci-Arc Caltech School

A student explaining how the dynamic home adjusts to different situations and needs.

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 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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