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Chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to compete in the annual Solar Decathlon student competition, Sacramento State’s Team Solar NEST (Natural, Elegant, Sustainable, Tranquility) spent months designing and planning the Reflect Home. The 996-square-foot home was created to meet the DOE’s stringent net-zero and cost-effective requirements without sacrificing stylish and comfortable living. “The Reflect Home’s design is focused on the resident, with the intention of making the house as functional, livable, and comfortable as possible,” says the team. “The Sacramento State team believes net-zero design will achieve widespread application only when homebuyers realize that sustainability can be achieved without sacrificing accommodations.”

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Inspired by local Craftsman bungalows and small mid-century ranch homes, the two-bedroom Reflect Home emphasizes indoor-outdoor living with its numerous windows and glazed accordion doors that open to the outdoor living area. Raised ceilings and an open-plan dining, living, and kitchen area create a sense of spaciousness. Each room is individually warmed and cooled by an efficient air-to-water heat pump with a ductless mini-split HVAC system.

Related: This tiny “e-mailable” solar house snaps together like a 3D puzzle without a single nail

The Reflect Home achieves it net-zero status with its airtight structural framework, high-density insulation, rooftop solar panels, and solar skylights installed above the back patio. The outdoor living area also features a rainwater-collection system with a rain barrel, as well as a living wall installation that helps protect the home from solar heat gain.

+ Reflect Home

+ Inhabitat Solar Decathlon Coverage

Images by Mike Chino for Inhabitat