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Students build unique energy efficient house

January 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A ribbon-cutting was held Tuesday for a unique solar-powered house designed and built by students from two local schools.

Anyone who takes a look at the home's roof, siding, doors and windows won't see a hint of green. But the people who designed and built it will point out it is one of the greenest houses to be found - with a monthly power bill of zero.

"And if you are in a municipality where they take energy back, it would be positive. They would actually pay you for the energy," said Reed Finley, project manager for the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology solar decathlon team, which built the home.

It's called a CHIP solar house. CHIP stands for compact, hyper-insulated prototype.

"It's all student run," Finley said. "Students started it, students fundraised for it, students designed it, built it, everything."

Officials at the California Science Center in Exposition Park were so impressed with it, they set it up on their campus and will be showing it off through May.

"We hope that it promotes greater discussion about the choices we make and how those choices impact the environment," said Ron Rohovit of the California Science Center.

The house's builders hope Americans will embrace this kind of energy efficiency.

"They start to think in new and innovative ways about how they might better insulate their homes while they are simultaneously investing in solar panels to power their homes," said SCI-Arc student Brian Zentmyer.

The designers estimate the cost of building a CHIP house to be around $262,000.

At just 733 square feet, though, you won't find a master suite. The washer and dryer are right next to the bed. And don't try squeezing two people into the bathroom.

But thanks to its solar panels, the monthly power bill could be enough to convince future homebuyers to CHIP in to the energy efficiency movement.