Living Light House

Students designed and built the Living Light House for an international competition that took them to Washington, D.C., and to a deeper understanding of design innovation.

Following the success of UTZero, our first net-zero project, our Institute for Smart Structures led more than 200 students and faculty to design and construct the solar-powered Living Light House for the 2011 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., an international competition for collegiate teams. Watch a video about Living Light.

UT placed eighth overall, first in energy production, third in engineering, third in hot-water production, third in energy-efficient appliances and fifth in architecture. Take a virtual tour.

During the competition, Living Light stood on the National Mall near some of the nation’s most recognizable architecture. It remained on exhibit for the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where it was seen by an estimated 1 million people. Living Light was the only house from the solar competition chosen to represent the nation’s land-grant universities during the festival. Read about Living Light in D.C.

Living Light then toured Tennessee, in all traveling nearly 6,000 miles and toured by more than 50,000 visitors.

Watch Mr. Photon, Living Light’s mascot, explain solar energy.

During the decathlon competition, Living Light generated all of the power necessary to support its mechanical needs, including appliances, air conditioning and lighting. In fact, during a significant storm in the D.C. area, which resulted in power outages in hundreds of nearby homes and businesses, Living Light continued to function nonstop.

A significant feature of the Living Light House is the transparent double façade with passive heating and integrated lighting. With its electric-car charging station, Living Light was designed to be a net-zero compact housing and transportation solution for two occupants. In this regard, it foreshadows AMIE, the revolutionary energy-harvesting, 3D-printed structure and vehicle designed and built by our Governor’s Chair for Energy + Urbanism team in 2015.

Now permanently located at the Oak Ridge Children’s Museum, Living Light was a valuable experience-learning opportunity for our students.

Living Light earned much acclaim:

  • Award of Excellence, Merit Citation, AIA Tennessee, 2012
  • Chapter Craftsmanship Award, Knoxville Chapter of CSI, 2012
  • Chancellor’s Citation for Success in Multidisciplinary Research, UT, 2012
  • (Re)Design Award, Sustainable Design nonprofit, AIGA, 2011
  • Letter of Appreciation, ASHRAE Knoxville, 2011
  • Finalist, Wise Award, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community, 2010

Read the Huffington Post’s review of Living Light.