Energy technology and lifestyle

A case study of the University at Buffalo 2015 Solar Decathlon home

GRoW home.

The GRoW Home at the competition site in Irvine, CA. Photo by Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Associate professor of architecture Martha Bohm reports the design process and measured performance of the University at Buffalo's net-zero energy prototype, the GRoW Home.

Sustainable design intentions and pragmatic constraints are discussed in addition to the energy considerations for each design element. Designed for the 2015 Solar Decathlon in Irvine, CA, the GRoW home includes features designed to support a unique lifestyle, including an integrated greenhouse (the "GRoWlarium”) and various operable systems under the occupant's control.

Whole-building energy simulations, spreadsheet calculations, daylighting simulations, and proprietary sizing software were used in design decision making. Energy performance predictions and measured results from the 2015 competition are discussed. The home was predicted to consume 177.11 kWh, and produce 238 kWh during the competition; it actually consumed 161 kWh, and produced 191 kWh, an error of 3% and 8%, respectively.

The GRoW Home ultimately had the lowest energy consumption of any SD 2015 house which successfully performed all competition-required tasks.

GRoW Home enters new phase as energy resource center for UB

The GRoW Home is now open on the South Campus as a clean energy and sustainability engagement center. Over the 2019-20 academic year the university will move the home to its permanent location on the North Campus. It will be sited next to the Solar Strand, the 750-kilowatt solar array designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Walter Hood.


Martha Bohm, Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture


Renewable Energy

Date Published