With the opening ceremony of the Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon taking place exactly one week from today in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., I’m continuing my series of in-depth previews of a handful of the competing

homes (check out this recent slideshow for a sneak peak at all 19 entrants). While most of the homes that I’ve dedicated individual posts to thus far are the collegiate creations of Decathlon newbies, today I’m featuring Re_Home, a smartly designed and extremely relevant residence from a formidable third-time contender that took second place in the 2009 Solar Decathlon: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Although the concept behind UIUC's Re_Home was conceived prior to Hurricane Irene’s watery wrath, March’s catastrophic Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the costliest and deadliest tornado in recent history — a massive EF-5 twister that decimated Joplin, Mo., on May 22 — this solar-powered abode couldn’t be more timely.
Taking a cue from the rebuilding efforts in Greenburg, Kan., Re-Home is meant to “demonstrate how environmentally aware living can be brought to the forefront of a community-led recovery effort” in the wake of a natural disaster. Designed for rapid deployment in an effort to bring immediate shelter (the modular home can be assembled in a matter of hours) to displaced families, this 978-square-foot home with a pre-installed 7.2kW rooftop solar array not only promotes energy savings through features like Kolbe triple-paned windows, a conditioning energy recovery ventilator (CERV), a super insulated building envelope, and a solar shading canopy made from recycled steel but flexibility, a concept previously lacking in disaster relief housing.
The team explains the importance of flexible living space in a post-disaster housing scenerio:
Previous disaster relief housing responses have proved inflexible to the various lifestyles of disaster victims. The Re_home tries to redefine this strategy, presenting an efficient and open floor plan that accommodates the various needs of many users.
The floor plan was designed around two triangular organizations, one open for public spaces, and one enclosed for private spaces. This minimizes wasted circulation space throughout the home and encourages open interaction between both interior and exterior spaces. The flex space allows the house to transition between a one and two bedroom home. The home also presents several options for eating, working, and relaxing allowing the home occupants to customize the living space to their liking.
Other notable eco-features of Re_Home include cedar exterior cladding along with Resysta siding made from rice husks, salt, and mineral oils; modular gardening boxes for healthy, at-home food production; LED lighting from Juno; reclaimed wood decking and planters salvaged from a 19th century grain elevator in Wisconsin and a fence in Champaign; and a host of water- and energy-saving appliances and fixtures from top companies like Kohler, LG, Whirlpool and Bosch.
Take a virtual tour of this remarkable Solar Decathlon entrant in the above video and head on over to Re_Home’s official website to learn more about each “re” that makes the home so special: React, respond, reconsider, rebuilt, renewable and reinvest. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team also maintains a Facebook account, Twitter feed, Flickr stream, and blog each with plenty of updated info and images as D.C.’s big solar home building showdown draws near.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

2011 Solar Decathlon: Re_Home
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign returns to the Solar Decathlon with a smart, sustainable residence designed as a rapid housing solution for famil