When the Iowa State University Solar Decathlon Team first entered the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition in January 2008, we set out to create a house that demonstrates how existing principles of passive design, along with concepts of community interface and spatial organization, could allow a house to "interlock" with the environment, its occupants, and surrounding development. We wanted to show that a solar-powered home does not require revolutionary technologies. Eighteen months and several design iterations later, the Interlock House remains true to these ideals.
In addition to focusing on passive design and creating a net-zero energy house, we wanted to create a house that fits as naturally in the backyard on an existing structure as when it is free-standing. This came from the realization that current patterns of large-lot, suburban development around the United States are not sustainable—environmentally or socially. The resulting problems of resource distribution will escalate once the Baby Boom generation retires and enters old age. This fact directed much of our initial exploration into the house's form and function.
The Iowa State University Solar Decathlon Teams offers the Interlock House as just one of many potential solutions for sustainable living in the 21st century. However, we believe the house's versatility as either a free-standing or accessory dwelling unit—along with our decision to target a rapidly expanding yet often overlooked market—makes our house particularly special.