Thomas Tafur, fellow parent at Steele Elementary and owner of Build6, recently reached out to us about a passion project he had begun. He is part of the first-ever student lead team made up of thoughtful learners from the University of Denver and UC Berkeley. They are currently building a full-size, solar-powered house to enter into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The winner of the competition is the group that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency. As the only team entering with a school from Colorado, Thomas and his team are excited to compete on home turf for the October competition in Denver.

Construction is taking place at a parking lot on the northeast side of DU’s campus. A construction webcam has been installed and refreshes every few minutes and captures a single image. All the images are then put together to create a time-lapse of the project. To watch the live action and track their progress, visit

Once construction of the house is complete, it will be disassembled and moved to the competition site at 61st and Peña Station. “We are really good at engineering a design and coming up with innovative ideas, but DU has a special aspect of construction management experience that we don’t have at our school,” says Ruth McGee, a civil engineering student at UC Berkeley. “I think bringing in DU has been the best thing we have done.”

While the students are constructing only a one-floor single-family home, it is designed to have two more homes stacked on top of it. The house also features moveable walls, so the unit can transform from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom unit, depending on the needs of the occupants. “You can adjust the structure of the house to accommodate the way that it is stacked,” McGee says. “This is a concept design, and it’s a solution that we envision for Richmond. Our design will be open for them to use if they want to use this concept in the future.” The UC Berkeley team developed the idea for the home and the DU team made sure it could become a reality.

The UC Berkeley/University of Denver team is one of 12 collegiate teams participating in the 2017 Solar Decathlon. The event takes place every two years, and this year the city of Denver is hosting the competition in early October. In addition to being powered by the sun, the homes will be judged on innovation, smart energy use, water use and re-use strategies, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and market potential.

It’s no secret that we are inspired by people who make it their job to pave the way toward reducing the carbon footprint and we were triggered by the fact that this house will be a net zero energy home. Sustainable living is something we seek to learn more about. While Thomas and his team are working without pay or credit toward their degree, they are getting out of this passion project much more than any words on a certificate. They are putting their skills to test and showing the rest of the world that sustainable living is not only attainable, but offers a quality of life well above our expectations.