Self-Reliance, Middlebury College's U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 entry, is a two-bedroom, ultra-efficient, 990-ft2 house designed for a family of four. It features a green wall for growing plants, open family living space, and healthy building materials. Its traditional gable, or peaked roof, is a familiar form that holds a 7.2-kW photovoltaic array.

Design Philosophy
By incorporating the best features of the New England farmhouse into a novel design for the 21st century, Middlebury College offers an environmentally responsible house that can compete in the current market. Modern technologies such as energy-monitoring software, high R-value insulation, and triple-paned windows make the traditional form more energy-efficient. In addition, the team considered upfront and lifecycle costs and chose durable, natural materials that have minimal embodied energy and environmental impact.

Self-Reliance is simple, durable, and family-friendly. It reflects New England values and responds to the Northeastern climate. Self-Reliance includes:

A gable roof that sheds snow and rain.

A green wall in the kitchen and outdoor planters that provide space for growing fresh produce year-round.

A kitchen counter peninsula that encourages a communal cooking experience.

Self-Reliance provides a solution to sustainable living through technologies such as:

A solar array of 30 panels that can produce 7,930 kWh annually

An air-to-air heat exchanger that circulates air through a network of aluminum ducts and feeds the green wall with condensed moisture

Triple-paned windows with cork-insulated frames that have an R-value of 7 and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.53, which allows them to provide net heat gain over the course of a year

Stack effect ventilation, which pulls in cooler air toward the ground and vents out warmer air from the skylights.

Market Strategy
Designed for a New England family of four, Self-Reliance offers a comfortable space that fosters community. The adjacent kitchen, dining, and living spaces are designed to encourage the family to make dinner, do homework, and play a game together. The efficient use of space reduces the demand for energy and materials.

What's Next
Self-Reliance will settle onto Porter Field Road on the Middlebury College campus for permanent use as a student residence. Interested students will apply to live in the house in groups of four each semester. During their stay, residents will engage in community outreach projects related to the mission of the house. They will be encouraged to cook meals made with produce from the green wall and planters and to invite architects, authors, environmentalists, and other speakers to visit. Such events will provide opportunities for public exposure on campus and in the local community, and the house will remain accessible for educational purposes.

Description from the architects


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Building Activity

  • Georgi Sokolov
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