University to sell ICON Solar House

The house has one-bedroom and is 550 square-feet with a retail price of more than $500,000.
By
  • BRENT RENNEKE
April 06, 2010

A one-bedroom, 550 square-foot house with a retail price of more than $500,000 is hard to comprehend. But this house runs completely on solar-powered energy, and the University of Minnesota is looking to cash in on that idea this spring.
The ICON Solar House, which placed fifth among 20 international teams at last October’s Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, runs completely on solar power, and the University is currently selling the house at a minimum price of $200,000.
The total amount of money from the house’s sale will go to the University Institute of Technology, according to Daniel Handeen, research fellow at the Center for Sustainable Building Research.
The sun provides electricity for all of its heating, cooling and electricity needs, Handeen said. That’s the selling point of the house, not its size.
“Put this house up anywhere in Minnesota where there is enough sun and you would not have to pay utilities for the rest of the life of the house,” Handeen said.
Dean Carlson, capital planning and project management coordinator, said the retail value of the house is $550,000; however, he doesn’t expect to see the eventual sale price reach this number.
“Anything above the [minimum price] we will definitely take,” Carlson said. “I don’t think anyone expects to see the [retail amount].”
After April 12, when the proposals from prospective buyers are due, Carlson said a committee he serves on will evaluate the proposals.
Besides the monetary amount of the bid, Carlson said the committee will consider how they plan to move the house, the timeline of doing so and the plan they have for the future of the house.
It’s currently in parts at a University warehouse, and Carlson said moving all of these parts will not be easy.
“It is probably the most important thing,” Carlson said. “It is not something you can put on a Ford Ranger.”
Carlson said the goal is to have the house moved by this summer.
Handeen, who was an assistant project manager for developing and constructing the house and is also on the committee that will review the proposals, said if it were up to him, it would not be moved very far.
“Best-case scenario for me would be if someone bought it and basically gave it back to the University,” Handeen said.
Handeen said the house was available for tours on campus only a couple of days before it was sent to Washington, D.C., for the competition.
“It would be nice for people to see the quality and engineering of the students at the University,” Handeen said.
Peter Leeman, who graduated in December with a degree in mechanical engineering, said it is great to see the house put to use, but he also sees the value of allowing members of the University to see it.
“It would really generate some buzz about renewable energy, but we know it costs a lot of money to do that,” Leeman, who was in charge of the solar thermal aspect of the house, said.
Construction management alumnus Mike Meisinger, who contributed to the building of the house, said it would have been great to continue researching the house and possibly adding onto it.
“We had only tested the house for the three weeks at the competition,” Meisinger said.
Although the research and publicity would also prove valuable to the University, Handeen said the current economic state does not allow for it.
“With the way funding is going for the [University], times are real tough,” Handeen said. “Unfortunately, we have to let this go because of the monetary aspects.”
Handeen said he is holding out hope until the buyer decides the house’s fate.
“I just hope the right person sees it and is able to help out the University,” Handeen said.

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