7 things you need to know about the UAB Solar House, including a free tour Oct. 1, 10AM-3PM


UAB's Solar House
Take a tour of UAB’s Solar Home Oct. 1. (Bham Now)

The UAB Solar House sits on a little corner of UAB’s campus that’s completely off the electrical grid, in the middle of a sustainable community. We recently had the chance to take a tour and we’re here to tell you, if you’re interested in sustainable living, you need to see this. UAB Sustainability is hosting free tours Saturday, October 1 between 10AM and 3PM, plus a monarch butterfly celebration. Keep reading for all the details.

1. There’s a free tour October 1, 10AM-3PM

Screenshot 2022 09 16 at 9.30.34 PM 7 things you need to know about the UAB Solar House, including a free tour Oct. 1, 10AM-3PM

2. The UAB Solar House was built in 2017 for the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon

UAB's solar home
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 team from UAB used a crane to assemble the house in Denver. (Laurie Loweecey / US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Since 2002, the United States Department of Energy has been hosting a Solar Decathlon to encourage students from across the globe to create innovations in solar-powered living.

In 2017, UAB placed third in two key areas:

  • Energy: this means the home generates more energy than it uses, making it “net positive.”
  • Home life: this is about how much energy the home uses on an average day for everyday living.

The house was originally built on UAB’s campus by students, faculty and community partners, then disassembled, transported to Denver and rebuilt for the competition. Afterwards, they took it apart and brought it back home.

3. The UAB Solar House was built to withstand winds of 250mph

Inspired by the 2011 tornadoes that ravaged our state, UAB’s Solar Decathlon entry was called surviv(AL), and features a built-in tornado shelter that can withstand 250-mph winds. Additionally, the home is designed with quick permanence in mind—it can be built quickly after a storm to provide housing for people who lost their homes.

4. It’s an energy island, powered by a remote microgrid

That green storage container behind the house is the home of the microgrid, pictured on the right. Check out the solar panels on the roof of the home. (Bham Now)

The UAB Solar House generates more energy than it uses, making it “net positive.” The 100% solar-powered home stores the extra electricity in its own microgrid. Here in Alabama, that means saving up for a hot and sunny day, because A/C is one of our biggest energy users.

5. The UAB Solar House looks like a place you’d want to live + the plans are available for free online

(l-r) Front view of the big porch, inside view of the galley-style kitchen looking into the living room + bedroom with quilt by Carolyn Ingram, an Alabama quilter. (Bham Now)

When you walk into the home, it feels much more spacious than its 1000 square feet. In fact, “Oh, I could totally live here” is what most people say when they first walk in, according to Bambi Ingram of UAB Sustainability.

If you really do want to live in a home like this one, you’re in luck. Because the Solar Decathlon is sponsored by the Department of Energy, you’ll find plans for all of the houses through the years available online for free. Check out the plans for UAB’s Solar House here, done by Binx Newton of Williams Blackstock Architects.

6. The whole neighborhood is about sustainable living

UAB Solar Home Garden
The community garden near UAB’s Solar House. (Bham Now)

Now that the Solar House has been on UAB’s campus for five years, a whole village has grown up around it. UAB’s Community Garden, a monarch waystation, the Blazer Kitchen Garden (providing veggies for food insecure populations), a meadow and more are within walking distance.

7. There’s a monarch waystation at the UAB Solar House

Monarch Waystation
Monarch Waystation (Bham Now)

The area just outside the house has been classified as a monarch waystation—a habitat which encourages the migration of monarchs—according to MonarchWatch.org. Learn more about monarchs here.

See UAB’s Solar House + sustainable community for yourself—schedule a tour today.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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