Sustainable house powered by solar energy.

Competing for the first time in Solar Decathalon, students at Rice University have developed a zero-energy house that they call the “Ze-Row Energy House”. Armed with solar panels and a solar water heating system, the 800-square-foot house will travel to Washington, D.C. National Mall this October.

Apart from the use of solar energy to power the house, the $150,000 house includes other sustainable systems including a solar water heating systems, bamboo flooring, airy interiors to lower ventilation and cooling energy needs, a wall of plants to provide shade and cooling, ductless air-conditioning, dual-flush toilet and all other appliances used in the house will be Energy Star Certified.

With sustainability the prime priority, the house is no dud in catering to the safety of the homeowners, as the design team has been reinforced to withstand hurricane-force winds. The team’s “secret weapon” this year is ultra-simple: the humble clothes line. To reduce energy use in a portion of the competition that requires students to wash and dry towels using tools in the house, the Rice team will simply hang them out to dry them outdoors.

Competition-wise, the Ze-Row Energy House has the advantage of already being one piece — teams only get five days to assemble the house, and some will test that deadline by bringing the house in pieces. The team states that other competing houses are much more efficient since they use pricey systems that include roofs that rotate with the movement of the sun, but their idea was to design a house that could really be built and doesn’t just remain a concept forever.