s.ky blue information

The Solar Decathlon is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Market Viability

Market Viability: 84.000 out of 100 possible points


Teams build their houses for a target market of their choosing. They are then asked to demonstrate the potential of their houses to keep costs affordable within that market. A jury of professionals from the homebuilding industry evaluates how well suited the house is for everyday living, determines whether the construction documents would enable a contractor to construct the house as intended, and assesses whether the house offers potential homebuyers within the target market a good value. The jury considers:

  • Livability—Gauges whether the house is well suited for everyday living, could accommodate the specific needs of the targeted homeowners, and offers a safe, functional, convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable place to live.
  • Buildability—Determines whether the construction documents would enable a contractor to generate an accurate construction cost estimate and then construct the building as the design team intended it to be built.
  • Marketability—Assesses the house's curb appeal, interior appeal, and quality craftsmanship; how well its sustainability features and strategies contribute to its marketability; and whether the house offers potential homebuyers within the target market a good value.


s.ky blue's market viability


target market

The primary target market for the s.ky blue solarhouse project is the aging-in place community. Our research has identified a growing market share of customers and consumers in Kentucky who have an interest in the type of high-performance solar house that we designed for multiple reasons. Even in a market of an economic and housing downturn, this market within a 60-mile radius of the University of Kentucky continues to increase. In researching our aging-in-place concept, students and faculty at the University of Kentucky School of Business and the School of Journalism and Telecommunications found that our target market segments into young married professionals, baby boomers, and active retirees. This group is economically savvy and represents a growing market share in our community. These homeowners demand houses that are well built, eco-friendly, and stylish. The s.ky blue project meets the expectations of this community by developing an adaptable house that has \ well-designed, defined spaces with shared boundaries. 

market features

Designed to demonstrate the core concepts of our “Live.Light” ethos, the house is efficiently conceived to minimize its footprint by being energy, water, and material efficient. Adaptability is central to this approach, and it is the ability of the house to be outwardly site-malleable and inwardly-flexible that will allow our target market residents to “age in place.” To meet the needs of this market, our team design challenge has been to make the entire house accessible. Rather than designing to one market and forcing another to make do or extensively renovate, the s.ky blue house adapts to the building occupants. Whether through its integrated weather aware system, its adaptable counters or lavatories, or ADA compliant features, the s.ky blue house caters to the needs of our target market. 

The s.ky blue house exceeds USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Platinum standards by using a mixture of the standard’s green building practices and high-performance materials, which include: 

  • Solar thermal units on the south-facing facade providing heated water for showers and dishwashing
  • BIPV Photovoltaic modules on the front of the house and a roof-mounted photovoltaic array that transform sunlight directly into electricity for use
  • On-site water reclamation via a modular rainwater collection system irrigates the property and provides water for the toilet and the washing machine
  • Sustainably harvested woods cabinets and trim
  • A new generation of paperless drywall designed with a moisture-resistant core to resist mold
  • Access to direct daylighting for 100% of the locations inside the home
  • LED lighting
  • Energy Star, white, cool roofing
  • In-floor hydronic radiant heating
  • Smart house automation
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Zero VOC paints
  • Permeable paving (Alternate Site)
  • Locally sourced and sustainable products
  • Interior air quality management system
  • Low water/drought tolerant landscaping



The aesthetics of the house are driven by site specificity, adaptability, and environmental integration. For these reasons, materials were selected for their stewardship, recyclability, reuse, and repurposing, and remanufacturing capabilities. The s.ky blue house is a human-scaled composition designed and built using a proportional system aligned with clean geometric lines, structural purity, abundant light, and a dynamic and seamless relationship between inside and outside spaces, culminating in a house that feels open, spacious, and comfortable.

maintenance and convenience

Our factory built structure incorporates high quality and durable materials for all surfaces and systems. The s.ky blue team has placed over 60 sensors throughout the house to monitor the house’s performance. This knowledge is gathered, interpreted, and reintegrated back into the house allowing the house to adjust and acclimate to change. Our design integrates thermostatically controlled faucets in the shower to prevent scalding and occupancy sensors to allow for further levels of energy-efficiency. The whole-house automation system controls the house form a single-location translating to increased convenience. 

With its modular design, the house is easy to repair and its components are easy to replace. The choice of materials such as the almost maintenance free cement fiberboard rainscreen system allows for permanent ventilation and produces no efflorescence. Its perforations are designed to mimic the surrounding context allowing the house to blend into the environment. Behind the screen, LED lights with over 50,000 hours of life illuminate the decking through projection. 


The use of radiant heating throughout produces a high level of comfort throughout the house, including the bathroom area, which has been designed to be barrier-free. The use of an energy recovery ventilation system and use of no-VOC paints, sealants, finishes, and adhesives offers increased indoor air quality. To limit the noise typically associated with mechanical equipment and appliances, all mechanical areas are zoned away from the internal environment and sealed with highly insulated wall systems. For mechanical devices within the house, sound absorptive materials are used to deaden the sound to achieve decibel levels well below 48dB. 


To increase privacy and accessibility, our bathroom core is well insulated and visually separated from the living spaces of the home. The core, in fact, creates an occupiable threshold between the public and private spaces of the home. To increase privacy, the design presents a ribbon of continuous windows placed at 7’-6” above-finished-floor. These windows offer views to the outdoors without compromising privacy. As seen through the living room windows, the exterior decking material visually extends the interior of the home outdoors. Beyond the deck, surrounded by shale mulch, a gradient selection of native planting materials range in height from high (Tobacco, Sumac, Indian grass) to low (Lemongrass, Blue fescue, and Sod) creating a private microclimate and softscape boundary for the homeowners which captures the variation and undulating qualities of Kentucky’s landscape. 


The s.ky blue team has made every effort to facilitate and increase the quality of life of the homeowner both inside and outside of the house. The flooring selections are sustainable and natural and have been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America as asthma < allergy friendly.™ The building envelope uses a combination of electrically tinted glazing, superinsulated windows with sufficient UV protection, and passive solar design to eliminate the potential for damage or degradation to the interior materials and artwork. The exterior rainscreen cladding deflects most of the rain and the ventilated cavity carries away moisture and therefore reduces humidity. The air circulating on the exterior of the building increases the efficiency of the insulation, which according to our target market research, equates to the highest possible insulation wall value while maintaining an immediate return on an initial investment. The team has also integrated walk-off mats at both the east and west end doors to help limit dirt and debris from entering the building. In an effort to maximize usable space, a system of Shaker-like, building-integrated storage units have been designed into the building. These integrated units include storage for dining room chairs, clothes, books, entertainment equipment, plates, pots, pantry, and cutlery storage, linens and toiletries, and utility closet functions.


The inner workings of the house and infrastructure are geared to adaptability and flexibility. As such, the entire electrical system is run through an integrated system of conduit, allowing for immediate and easy replacement of wiring and systems when technological advances occur in the future. 


Every effort was made to design and integrate a safe environment for the general public during the competition and for the homeowners after the competition.