A Sunny Welcome from UK


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 5, 2010) − After competing in Washington D.C. last fall and accepting visitors on the front lawn of the Main Building at the University of Kentucky this past spring and summer, UK's solar house is now greeting visitors from around the world at the the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) at the Kentucky Horse Park.

S•KY BLUE House, as it's called, is serving as a Visitor's Center and the entry threshold to the Kentucky Experience exhibitions at the games.

To view a transcript of the video above, please click on the transcript link just below the photo gallery.

WEG provides a wonderful opportunity to share UK research with an international community. "The world comes to us in Lexington," says Gregory Luhan, one of the co-principal investigators behind the solar house. "If we can use our house as the visitor center and broadcast our message to the world, it would be an easy way to take what we do in the Commonwealth and show our innovation, our ideas."

Co-principal investigator Don Colliver agrees. "Here we are taking that research and teaching we have developed, and taking it to the people of the Commonwealth and beyond. That is one of the reasons we are taking it to the World Equestrian Games, to show that we have within the Commonwealth the ability to do things that are really cutting-edge."

The S•KY BLUE House was designed, fabricated, constructed and marketed by more than 175 students in the Colleges of Agriculture, Design, Engineering, and Communications and Information Studies under the direction of Colliver, a professor in the UK College of Agriculture Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, and Luhan, associate dean for research in the UK College of Design.

The UK design presents an optimized living and learning environment that engages the landscape through an integrated design approach that demonstrates a range of site-flexible and contextual solutions for living under the sun today. The house makes strong reference to Kentucky’s passive architectural roots and integrates forward-thinking innovations into a design based upon an open and porous loft concept anchored by the home's hearth, the kitchen core, and a series of outdoor spaces that envelope the house. A breezeway design blends the beauty, simplicity and passivity of various elements of Kentucky vernacular architecture with modern elements ranging from its furniture to Shaker-style built-in cabinetry, wall-integrated folding tables and chairs to active energy-efficient systems and technologies including an LED illuminated perforated cladding system.
The S•KY BLUE House structure is designed to allow for very quick setup and occupancy. Several unique features include: rainwater harvesting systems, fixed and single-axis tracking arrays, PV cooling, electronically tintable glass in non-shaded areas, super high-efficient appliances, a reverse cycle heat pump, demand controlled ventilation for indoor air quality control, and an Automatic Weather Adaptive Response Energy (AWARE) control system, which optimizes the energy flows in the house based upon zip-code-specific weather forecasts. The net-zero energy home was viewed by 200,000 people and toured by 25,000 visitors while it competed in the U.S. Department of Energy 2009 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C. last fall. The house placed ninth out of 20 entries from around the world in the prestigious competition and took second in the People's Choice Award category.

Team members said it was an excellent showing by a first-time competing team, and they also learned a lot about how to compete in the event. Luhan said that was one of the most satisfying parts of the competition because it proved the team had built something that visitors found aesthetically pleasing.

The competition proved that the S•KY BLUE House could serve as an inspiring proof-of-concept demonstration project that could integrate leading-edge research, and ultimately show the Commonwealth of Kentucky that net-zero solar living is possible in Kentucky.

And still today, students at UK are using the structure to continue conducting solar energy research. Graduate student Ben Hobbs is doing a comparative analysis between an air conditioning unit and an electric resistance coil, while graduate student Jeffrey Kellow explores the capabilities of the solar thermal system.

Following its display at WEG, the solar house will return to UK for further use educationally. "We designed and constructed the house with continued research in mind; thus, we have capabilities to continue measuring quantities and adjusting systems to find new discoveries," added Kellow. "It is a great venue to show future students the kinds of projects they could work on at UK. They can see that advances in energy generating and energy saving devices are being achieved through research in Kentucky."

For more information, visit the solar house website at