Stanford University Designs the Start.Home

Stanford University designed and built the Start.Home to make sustainability trendy, social and affordable. They were awarded 1st place in both the Affordability and Energy Balance categories, and made more solar energy than the home needed or used. They also placed 2nd in the Hot Water category and 3rd in Market Appeal. The overall cost of the house with the energy system and all the appliances was $234,092.

Side view of Start.Home from Stanford.  This year was one of the closest Solar Decathlons ever.

Side view of Start.Home from Stanford. This year was one of the closest Solar Decathlons ever.

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 as well as screen a 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 frying plantains, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on. It’s all powered by the sun. Here are Stanford’s Dinner Menus and Recipes. (9 page pdf with a nice recipe for marinated portabella mushrooms.)

Photo Gallery

This home had one of the coolest interactive pieces of art – that visualized the home’s energy performance in real time.  I visited the Start.Home at the end of the day 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.


  • The prefabricated public module includes a kitchen counter and appliances, bathroom and laundry room, and a mechanical room with integrated electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Exterior redwood siding and interior Douglas fir hardwood floors were salvaged from old homes in the California Bay Area.
  • A custom building energy management system with intuitive controls and a prominent interface gathers electricity and water use data and visualizes it to the occupants for motivation and goal setting.
  • A great room for dinner parties or game nights can spill out to the expansive backyard patio through large glass sliding doors that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living.
  • An edible backyard garden provides fruits and vegetables.


  • The CORE mechanical room integrates the Start.Home power generation and controls into one centralized “engine” with modular additions to extend the control system to each living space.
  • A modular framework supports future additions.
  • Structural insulated panels maintain a tight and insulated building envelope.
  • A greywater system filters and reuses laundry water for exterior irrigation.
  • A heat-recovery ventilator works with an efficient heating/cooling system, automated windows, phase-change materials, energy-efficient ceiling fans, and a tri-zone ductless mini-split system to provide year-round comfort and natural ventilation.

Final Overall Scores

The team finished in 5th place with a total of 933.125 points.

The team finished in 5th place with a total of 933.125 points.


mechanical room of the start.home

A Stanford student explains the mechanical core of the house.

All of the teams learned 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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