SKY Blue Solar House open for tours



By Ashley Beckham

After planning, construction, competition and success, the UK solar house is opening to let students come in and have a look around.

The UK solar house, currently located on the lawn by the Main Building, was built by a team of students from the colleges of Agriculture, Design, Engineering and Communications. The house placed 9th in the U.S. Department of Energy’s fourth biannual Solar Decathlon, and is now inviting students to tour the house and see what made it a successful venture.

The solar house competed with 20 other universities worldwide. The man-made structure combined with natural energy sources is described as being “eclectic and syncretistic, historic and modern.” The team was led by controlled environment systems professor Don Colliver and architecture associate professor Greg Luhan.

Architecture graduate student Ross Graham worked on the solar house, and said being environmentally-friendly was the main goal.

“The team wanted the solar house to work towards reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuel and other nonrenewable resources,” Graham said.

The planning process lasted a year and a half, but the area of difficulty was communicating the process in a unified way between the several colleges, Graham said.

“It took four months to build, but around a year and a half to plan and work on from beginning to end,” Graham said. “The biggest challenge was working with all the different areas of the combined teams, but in the end it made a great mix.”

Luhan said the everyday interaction between the students let them experience the challenges that each individual discipline faced.

“They learned the exchange of everyday life between careers, in a course by course setting,” he said. “The process was designing, building and fabricating a research-driven project.”

The team transported the house to the National Mall in Washington, where it was placed in 10 judged events during the 10-day period. The house was judged on whether or not it was a realistically livable environment, and whether or not it was a net-zero house, meaning the house had to use energy derived from the sun, wind and other energy-efficient tools the team created.

Luhan said students are encouraged to come and see what possibilities exist in the realm of solar energy, especially one created by fellow students.

“It was done by Kentucky’s students, it can be viewed as a one-on-one basis type project. Prospective students can get a concept of impact,” Luhan said. “It is a prototype of living students can and are continuing to learn from.”

The SKY Blue solar house is located on the lawn behind the Main Building on Administration Drive. The solar house is open for tours on Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Private tours are also available by contacting Luhan at [email protected], and more tours will be available around Earth Day on April 22. To take a virtual tour online, visit at