SPACE INVADER: The Southern California Institute of Architecture and Cal Tech joined together for this year's Solar Decathlon to create a home sheathed in architectural vinyl. Other entries were much more traditional.
Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon team SPACE INVADER: The Southern California Institute of Architecture and Cal Tech joined together for this year's Solar Decathlon to create a home sheathed in architectural vinyl. Other entries were much more traditional.

A housing development of solar-powered, energy-efficient houses that sprouted briefly just south of the National Mall in Washington late last month featured building materials that often were supplied by traditional LBM dealers. Entries in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon were designed by university students from across the United States and several countries. The houses are often built using a mix of traditional building materials as well as new and innovative materials and designs.

Mountain Lumber of Boone, N.C., supplied windows as well as materials for the bathroom in Appalachian State University's home. Dykes Lumber of New York helped deliver framing and sheathing materials used in Parsons The New School for Design's entry. In Ohio, Fifth Avenue Lumber sold at discount items used in the Ohio State University model home. Purdue University's INhome was built using tools and materials purchased through the local branch of Von Tobel Lumber & Hardware, which also got James Hardie Siding to donate the entire siding package for the house.

The houses provided an interesting mix of traditional and non-traditional design. The structure designed by the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology was built with insulation and architectural vinyl (the material used for sports stadium roofs) wrapping the exterior of the framing, making the house appear almost like a balloon. The INhome, however, looked like a regular house, but special interior features, including technological interconnectivity of utilities, gave it a unique feel.