Appalachian pairs with French team for Solar Decathlon

Michelle Pierce

Appalachian State University’s solar decathletes started construction on an energy-plus housing solution for multi-family structures Sept. 10 at 8 a.m. for the Solar Decathlon Europe, which will be held in Versailles, France starting June 2014.

They plan to finish construction March 1 and will showcase the house to the public at the office’s parking lot until May.  The building will then be disassembled and shipped to Versailles, France, where the Solar Decathlon Europe is being held this year, said Eric Burgoyne, a graduate student in the building science program and the sponsorship manager for the team.

“The house will be built in six different pieces that will come apart and go together like big Legos,” he said.
Mason Reciprocity is the chosen name for Appalachian State University and the French Université d’Angers, who have teamed up with Appalachian for the competition, are one of the 20 teams chosen to compete in the competition out of more than 40 entries worldwide.

The students are building in layers and are currently constructing the floor plan section of the house, said Mark Bridges, communication director.

“The hardest part is that we’re going to move it to France,” co-project manager Bryce Oakley said. “For most construction sites, you are building it where the building is going to stay, but we have to keep in mind that we have to separate these pieces.”

According to the Solar Decathlon Europe’s official rules, the building must be within the dimensions of the team’s 20-by-20 meter lot and stay under 6 meters high. It is not directly expressed that the houses have to be one or two floors, but need to be low-rise structures.

While constructing, the solar decathletes need to keep in mind the market and ask the question: “Can that community actually be able to buy the house that we build?” An extensive amount of research has been done for the house by Jessie Pipes, the business manager, in order to back up their statement that the house can be a viable solution for any community, Bridges said.

“The plan right now is that we’re not going to bring [the house] back to Boone,” Burgoyne said. “The home will be sold and put on permanent exhibition in Versailles. I always call it the reverse Statue of Liberty.”

The requirements of the multi-family housing structures entered into the competition include having a low environmental impact and producing as much or more energy than it consumes.

Solar Decathlon Europe will judge the building through 10 contests including architecture, communications, innovation and sustainability, Bridges said.

The greatest aspect that the group needs to fund is supporting the students’ travel to France. They are sending 30 students this summer for a month and a half, and need to raise more than $100,000, Burgoyne said.

The team’s goal is to raise $1.4 million for the entirety of the project, Burgoyne said. Team Mason Reciprocity is entirely self-funded and relies on receiving donations from Appalachian alumni, members of the community and various business sponsorships, Bridges said.

For more information about the Solar Decathlon project, visit Mason Reciprocity’s website at

Story: MICHELLE PIERCE, News Reporter