West Virginia University Builds PEAK

Inspired by Appalachian living, the PEAK home from West Virginia University was built with SIPs (structured insulated panels) and has some impressive passive solar features. The home received 1st place in Energy Balance, making more solar energy than was needed or used. The overall cost of the house, with all the appliances and energy systems included is $279,412.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University built an efficient, attractive house with passive solar features and room for toys.

PEAK gets is name from ‘Preserving Energy with Appalachian Knowledge’ and is a smart house that comes with an app that can not only control the temperature, but also home’s security and it can also help the homeowners with their nutrition status.

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, baking chicken parmesan, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on.  It’s all powered by the sun.  Here are the Dinner Menus and Recipes from West Virginia University (24 page pdf).

Photo Gallery


  • A solar chimney in the center of the house provides passive ventilation and represents a hearth that mimics the feel of a traditional Appalachian house.
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings made of structural insulated panels provide higher insulation levels while maintaining a rustic “log cabin” aesthetic.
  • The kitchen’s state-of-the-art smart appliances reduce energy consumption by communicating with one another and making decisions to reduce power use.
  • A rooftop garden minimizes heat collection and water runoff and maximizes the usable area for growing edible vegetation.
  • A living wall conditions the interior climate and provides fresh herbs and produce.


  • Sustainable energy systems—a photovoltaic system and a solar water-heating system—provide quick and sufficient hot water and virtually eliminate electricity bills.
  • The user-friendly, all-encompassing home automation system allows users to control all systems using a smartphone or tablet.
  • The climate-control system enables room-by-room temperature and lighting adjustments. Through smart HVAC technology, users can set different zoning preferences without disturbing the settings of other rooms.
  • An integrated health-monitoring system with floor-integrated scales and accompanying wrist bands calculates body mass index and helps monitor blood pressure and other health factors, integrating holistic health into the home environment.


Final Overall Score

The final score for W. Virginia, finishing in 19th place with 774.742 points.

The final score for W. Virginia, finishing in 19th place with 774.742 points.

All of the teams did a great job 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 (three esteemed people) within 10 events.

Front of the Solar Decathlon home from West Virginia

The Decathlon students do a great job explaining technologies to younger students.



Features and technologies sections from solardecathlon.gov

Visit the team’s website: http://solar.wvu.edu



Keya Lea

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

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