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ISU’s Interlock House at Honey Creek Resort State Park is part of 2014 National Solar Tour

October 02, 2014

The Interlock House, located at Honey Creek Resort State Park on Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa, is a community lab used to study building energy performance.
Architecture Postdoctoral Research Associate Shan He and Associate Professor Ulrike Passe run energy models and computational fluid dynamics simulations of air convection and radiation.


AMES, Iowa — The Interlock House, Iowa State University's entry in the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, is part of the 19th Annual ASES National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society.

Designed and constructed by Iowa State students for the two-week solar decathlon competition, the 800-square-foot, energy-efficient, solar-powered home is now owned by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The facility is used as the Activities Building and Nature Center at Honey Creek Resort State Park in southern Iowa and is partially funded by Iowa NSF EPSCoR (National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) as a residential community laboratory aimed at optimizing energy efficiency through design tools and strategies.

The house will be open for public tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 4, at 12633 Resort Dr., Moravia.

The Interlock House Community Laboratory has a roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system that produces electricity and an indoor sun space that collects thermal energy. An evacuated tube solar collector supplies domestic hot water and under-floor radiant heating, and recharges the desiccant dehumidification system during the summer. Specialized insulation, innovative daylighting and other strategies also contribute to energy efficiency.

A team of Iowa NSF EPSCoR energy utilization researchers led by Ulrike Passe, ISU associate professor of architecture and director of the university's Center for Building Energy Research, is assessing the building's energy production and consumption over the long term.

"When the house was built, calculated predictions were all we had about energy performance and potential savings," Passe said, "but not all system interactions can be accounted for in calculations. You need to evaluate actual performance to know if the predicted benefits are realized."

The team will continue to monitor energy data from temperature, daylight, air speed and weather sensors installed in the home to understand how building design integrates with energy efficiency and how to replicate energy-saving practices successfully in various buildings.

The ASES National Solar Tour is held in the first week of October every year. It encourages public tours of buildings that make use of solar energy throughout the nation, with about 5,000 sites and 150,000 participants this year. The Interlock House is Iowa's only participating building this year.

Ulrike Passe, Architecture, (515) 294-7142,
Hannah Wiltamuth, Honey Creek Resort State Park, (641) 724-1490,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,