Have You Ever Wanted To Live In A Net-Zero Log Cabin? (VIDEO)

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Originally published on 1Sun4All.

Visiting the Solar Decathlon is a thrilling adventure that I highly recommend. The teams were introduced at the opening ceremony to great enthusiasm from the audience, and the houses are shining examples of each team’s creativity and dedication to sustainable, comfortable living. Each house that I visited had imaginative features and unique elements, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to each team member and every house. When first entering the Solar Village, the rustic log cabin arrested my attention.

I’m highlighting the Preserving Energy with Appalachian Knowledge, or PEAK house, from the team at West Virginia University in this article. These intrepid young people come from a state with a history and an economy interwoven with the coal industry. Their house is welcoming, well designed for comfortable living, charming, and it generates more energy than it uses. They have combined the ambiance of rustic, simple living in a log-cabin style home, with a high-tech, ecological, and viable financial reality.

log cabin
Solar photovoltaic panels on the carport and roof, along with the green roof not only support the energy efficiency of the house, they also add to the log cabin charm. | Photo Credit: Amber Archangel

Some of the outstanding “livable” features of PEAK:

  • Vaulted ceilings
  • A full bath AND a half bath
  • Two nice-sized bedrooms
  • A efficiently designed and roomy kitchen
  • A comfortable living room area with a dynamic surround-sound audio visual center
log cabin
The side of the passive solar sun room is visible when you approach the friendly front door. | Photo Credit: Amber Archangel

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Note that there is a category of the competition for People’s Choice. You may vote for the People’s Choice award by clicking here. The winner will be announced on October 12.

log cabin
The PEAK house offers a relaxed yet dynamic lifestyle. | Photo Credit: Amber Archangel

The following is more info from solarsecathlon.gov:

Design Philosophy of the PEAK House, 100% Student Designed, Built & Maintained

PEAK adapts modern technologies to traditional architecture. It captures the Appalachian spirit of West Virginia and aims to change the vision society has of energy-saving homes by combining affordability, energy efficiency, and reliability within a comfortable setting. Its unique style augments elements of a rustic log cabin with innovative and modern home automation and energy-saving technologies. 

log cabin
The kitchen in PEAK is roomy and efficient, it also has an elegant vaulted ceiling. All the appliances are state-of-the-art smart appliances which reduce energy use. | Photo Credit: Amber Archangel

A professional estimate given for the log cabin house which includes the cost of the solar PV panels, and does not include the furniture, came in at a very reasonable 280,000 U.S. dollars.

log cabin
Off the living room are the bedrooms and both bathrooms. The rustic log cabin aesthetic continues throughout the house. | Photo Credit: Amber Archangel

Features of PEAK

  • A solar chimney in the center of the house provides passive ventilation and represents a hearth that mimics the feel of a traditional Appalachian house.
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings made of structural insulated panels provide higher insulation levels while maintaining a rustic “log cabin” aesthetic.
  • The kitchen’s state-of-the-art smart appliances reduce energy consumption by communicating with one another and making decisions to reduce power use.
  • A rooftop garden minimizes heat collection and water runoff and maximizes the usable area for growing edible vegetation.
  • A living wall conditions the interior climate and provides fresh herbs and produce.

West Virginia University SD2013 Audiovisual Presentation

See more views of the rustic interior and how the technology systems work to provide sustainable living in the video above.


  • Sustainable energy systems—a photovoltaic system and a solar water-heating system—provide quick and sufficient hot water and virtually eliminate electricity bills.
  • The user-friendly, all-encompassing home automation system allows users to control all systems using a smartphone or tablet.
  • The climate-control system enables room-by-room temperature and lighting adjustments. Through smart HVAC technology, users can set different zoning preferences without disturbing the settings of other rooms.
  • An integrated health-monitoring system with floor-integrated scales and accompanying wrist bands calculates body mass index and helps monitor blood pressure and other health factors, integrating holistic health into the home environment.

Market Strategy

A repurposed wine barrel is used for rainwater storage. | Photo credit: Amber Archangel

PEAK offers a cozy spare bedroom and half bath to fit an array of occupancy circumstances—whether they include expanding family or out-of-town guests. Celebrating the open and rustic feel of the mountain region, the house offers its clients distinct comfort and sustainability.

What’s Next

After Solar Decathlon 2013, PEAK will return to West Virginia University to serve as an architectural representation of self-sustainable living in the Appalachian area. It will host a variety of events for the school, community, and surrounding area and serve as a tool used for recruiting students.

Construction Drawings are available here. PEAK

The team offers an enticing recipe for Black Berry Cobbler and other culinary delights here.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.

The Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO are both taking place in Irvine, California through Sunday, October 13.

It’s FREE! Public hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily:

  • Thursday, October 10 – Sunday, October 13, 2013

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Amber Archangel

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website, 1Sun4All.com.

Amber Archangel has 195 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Archangel