For sale: Student-built solar house

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2010 - 7:25 PM

They came because of a house but asked no questions about bedrooms or finished basements. Instead, the men talked wattage, mini-split pumps and just how much direct sunlight the roof would require.

This isn't your typical home for sale.

The University of Minnesota is taking bids on a 550-square-foot solar-powered house students built for an international competition -- the 2009 Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

On Monday afternoon, the interested and curious gathered at the U's ReUse Center, near Como Avenue, where the house in question lay in four giant parts, wrapped in plastic.

Jon Crump asked how it'd be put back together. "Are the students available for hire to the winning bidder?" (They are, a U employee answered.)

Crump said later that the minimum bid -- $200,000 -- makes purchasing the house unfeasible, but he came because "it's a curiosity," he said, "like collecting a museum piece."

U employees hope the winning bidder has the same thought. Although the U won't require the buyer to keep the house intact -- instead of selling it for parts -- employees hope he or she will. Then maybe they could monitor its performance over time.

Those involved didn't want to sell the solar house in the first place. They had worked to put it on campus or on the Rosemount acreage that is UMore Park, so it could be a learning tool.

But budgets are tight. Dean Carlson, with the U's Capital Planning and Project Management, said that by selling the house, "this way, the departments can recoup some of those costs."

Daniel Handeen, a research fellow for the Center for Sustainable Building Research, has been involved with the house since it was a proposal. He dreams that a benefactor would buy the house only to put it right back on campus.

If not: "I would love to see some very rich person buy it and put it up on the north side of their lake. There, they'd allow for ongoing monitoring."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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