CHIP: Making Compact Cool

What do you picture when you think about your first home? A white picket fence? A 5 bedroom, two-story house? A two or three car garage? What about solar panels… do you imagine those on the first house you buy?

You might not. Maybe you think solar panels are too expensive, unsightly, or even unneeded.

Enter the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon – a yearly program that challenges collegiate teams to design a solar powered home that combats that type of thinking. And the verdict is in: it’s time for all of us to #thinkfwd about energy efficiency (Shameless twitter plug? Don’t mind if I do!)

Photovoltaics, they're SO in right now.

The team that best embodied forward thinking? Depends who you ask. At the close of the weeklong competition University of Maryland won the overall, Appalachian State University won the People’s Choice award, and Middlebury College came in the front for the Market Appeal contest.

My choice: the SCI-Arc/Caltech house named CHIP, which stands for Compact Hyper Insulated Prototype…also a fancy way to say that the house looked like a marshmallow. An AWESOME, innovative marshmallow that increases the r-value of the house, meaning that less energy can be used to heat and cool.

SCI-Arc/Caltech house "CHIP" visibly insulated.

But more than that, CHIP is a statement about the way we live. The California team wanted to show us that bigger doesn’t always mean better. In “Who Turned Out the Lights?” Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson ask if it is the moment for the “smaller is beautiful” American home. If CHIP is any indication, yes it is.

Interviewing Mike Nesbit about the compact design of CHIP.

A guided tour through the interior of CHIP.

Americans live big – we make up about 5 percent of the population, but we consume nearly 22 PERCENT of the world’s energy. Do we really need all of that? Maybe with smart and innovative design combined with solar use, we don’t. And it’s CHIP that helped me get to that statement. It’s a house that adds to the conversation, and that’s what’s most important…even if it looks like an amorphous dessert.


2 thoughts on “CHIP: Making Compact Cool

  1. Hi Jordan,

    Remember to write your name at the end! Otherwise, awesome work. Your personality and energy came through, and I could tell you were the author even without the name. Your writing is fluid and fun, and you incorporated photos, captions, and hyperlinks well. The closing line, “a house that adds to the conversation,” is really great. You make your point clear – that although the CHIP house may not be the most practical, it gets people excited about the future of green living. Maybe add 1 or 2 more searchable terms to your title, for example: “CHIP: Making Compact Living Cool at CalTech.” This would cause your post to show up in more Google searches.


    Melissa M

  2. Frank Sesno says:

    love it, love it, love it! Personal, insightful, challenging to the reader. Are we all hogs, do we all live too big, are we hooked on conspicuous consumption? You get at these age-old questions in just a few blog-words. Great use of links to take us deeper, make us think, help us see. Strong point of view through-line and at the end. Beautiful blog!

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