‘Michael Zaretsky’s Precedents in Zero-Energy Design is such an important book … it will help readers recognize that design comes before technology – and renewable energy systems alone can’t solve the problems we face’ –  John D. Quale, Assistant Professor of Architecture and ecoMOD Project Director, University of Virginia

The world is currently facing an environmental crisis and as anyone interested in sustainable or zero-energy design knows the design and building industries have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.

The Solar Decathlon is an international event in which universities from around the world compete in the design and construction of a one-bedroom, zero-energy house. This book provides an in-depth, yet accessible analysis of the architecture and passive design strategies of the houses in the 2007 Solar Decathlon. These houses are the result of thousands of hours of research and development from twenty universities around the world. Divided into three parts, the book provides:

  • an initial section investigating the architecture, passive design and systems layout of the twenty houses;
  • a diagrammatic comparison of the architecture and passive design characteristics of each of the twenty houses in order of ranking by the Architecture, Comfort Zone and overall scores received in the competition;
  • a deep analysis of the relationship between architecture, passive design and mechanical systems design as compared to the rankings received in the various contests. This analysis considers the decisions made by the competing teams and highlights the success of the design strategies employed.

Students, educators, practitioners and researchers of architecture, design and engineering will find this an informative and inspirational book. It examines the relationship between design and environmental principles and provides invaluable insight into some of the most innovative, off-the-grid and zero-energy houses in the world.

With a Foreword by John D. Quale, Assistant Professor of Architecture and ecoMOD Project Director, University of Virginia

chapter 1|18 pages


part 19|6 pages

Part 1: Drawings and Diagrams

chapter 1|4 pages

Technische Universität Darmstadt

chapter 2|4 pages

University of Maryland

chapter 3|4 pages

Santa Clara University

chapter 4|4 pages

The Pennsylvania State University

chapter 5|4 pages

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

chapter 6|4 pages

Georgia Institute of Technology

chapter 7|4 pages

University of Colorado at Boulder

chapter 10|4 pages

University of Texas at Austin

chapter 11|4 pages

University of Missouri-Rolla

chapter 12|4 pages

New York Institute of Technology

chapter 13|4 pages

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

chapter 14|4 pages

Carnegie Mellon University

chapter 15|4 pages

University of Cincinnati

chapter 16|4 pages

Universidad de Puerto Rico

chapter 17|4 pages

Texas A&M University

chapter 19|4 pages

Cornell University

chapter 20|4 pages

Lawrence Technological University

part 105|1 pages

Part 2: Comparisons

chapter 21|2 pages

Exterior Form Parti

chapter 22|2 pages

Interior Spatial Parti

chapter 23|2 pages

Combined Form and Spatial Parti

chapter 24|2 pages

Site Circulation

chapter 25|2 pages

Outdoor Spaces

chapter 26|2 pages

Construction Module

chapter 27|2 pages


chapter 28|2 pages


chapter 29|2 pages

Public/Private Spaces

chapter 30|2 pages

Interior Spatial Forms

chapter 31|2 pages


chapter 32|2 pages

Interior Zones

chapter 33|2 pages


chapter 34|2 pages

Natural Ventilation – Plan

chapter 35|2 pages

Natural Ventilation – Section

chapter 36|2 pages


chapter 37|2 pages


chapter 38|2 pages

Solar Angle – Angle of PV Array

chapter 39|2 pages

Photovoltaic Array

chapter 40|3 pages

Mechanical Systems Layout

part 147|1 pages

Part 3: Analysis

chapter 41|1 pages

Introduction to Analyses

chapter 42|1 pages

Interpretation of Charts

chapter 43|2 pages

Location: Institution

chapter 44|2 pages

Location: Project Cost and Distance

chapter 45|2 pages

Location: Latitude of Institution

chapter 46|2 pages

Location: on Solar Village

chapter 47|2 pages

Location: Site Circulation

chapter 48|2 pages

Concept Parti: Evolution

chapter 49|2 pages

Exterior Parti: Ascending Complexity

chapter 50|2 pages

Interior Parti: Ascending Complexity

chapter 51|2 pages

Systems Parti: Core Evolution

chapter 52|2 pages

Systems Parti: Systems Evolution

chapter 53|2 pages

Thermal Transfer

chapter 54|2 pages

Thermal Transfer: Conditioned Floor Area

chapter 55|2 pages

Thermal Transfer: Surface Area

chapter 56|2 pages

Thermal Transfer: Interior Volume

chapter 57|2 pages

Thermal Transfer: Surface to Volume

chapter 58|2 pages

Thermal Transfer: Conductance

chapter 59|2 pages

Thermal Storage

chapter 60|2 pages

Thermal Storage: Mass Materials

chapter 61|2 pages


chapter 62|2 pages

Daylighting: Total Glazing Area

chapter 63|2 pages

Daylighting: Average Illuminance

chapter 64|2 pages


chapter 65|2 pages

Shading: Unshaded Glazing Area

chapter 66|2 pages


chapter 67|2 pages

Ventilation: Operable Glazing Area

chapter 68|2 pages

Photovoltaic Production

chapter 69|2 pages

PV Production: Solar Angle

chapter 70|2 pages

PV Area: PV Array and rankings

chapter 71|3 pages

PV Area: PV Array and Areas

chapter 209|8 pages


chapter 217|2 pages


chapter 219|1 pages

Image Citations

chapter 220|1 pages

Further Reading

chapter 2007|2 pages

Solar Decathlon Competition Teams

chapter |1 pages

Solar Decathlon Competition Sponsors