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Corporate Spotlight

Corporate partners support students in construction of solar-powered, energy-efficient home

Solar-powered. Energy-efficient. Cost-effective. Attractive. A group of Clemson University students and faculty are designing and building a family home that exemplifies these criteria which guide the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition. The competition is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and will be held in Irvine, CA in October 2015.

Along with 16 challengers from colleges and universities across the country, Clemson’s team has begun the two-year process of building a solar-powered, three-bedroom, 1000-square-foot home that is not only cost-effective, but also highly innovative in its design and construction methods.

Clemson’s team is comprised of over 100 students and faculty members from architecture, engineering and social sciences, and this multidisciplinary project is a manifestation of the complex and efficient collaborations that take place on Clemson’s campus each day. The team has named their solar-powered, carbon neutral home “Indigo Pine,” a name that has ties to South Carolina’s agricultural roots and the construction approach of this Southern-style home.

The primary material for Indigo Pine is wood, and the team selected this natural resource because it is indigenous to the state, has the lowest embedded energy of any structural material, and is highly renewable.

Since the Solar Decathlon competition will be held in Irvine, CA, the team had to get creative in determining how to transport the home this 2,300 mile distance. In order to keep Indigo Pine’s carbon footprint at zero, the team devised a plan to use computer navigated cutting (CNC) to transform the wood into pieces needed to assemble the home. The use of CNC enables the team to construct an initial prototype of Indigo Pine in Clemson, SC at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and then e-mail all the necessary plans and designs to a Universal Forest Products (UFP) plant near Irvine. At the plant, the wood will once again be cut into pieces and a second prototype of Indigo Pine will be constructed for the competition entry. This innovative method of transportation eliminates the use of rail, auto, or air (and related pollution) to ship the home.

Universal Forest Products serves as one of the main corporate partners for the Clemson Solar Decathlon team, providing materials and construction assistance. In reference to his initial reaction to the Clemson team’s pitch last year, UFP’s Andrew Sain notes, “I’ll be honest; I didn’t see it.” Now, thanks to the energy and innovative thinking demonstrated by the students, as well as faculty team leader and associate professor Dan Harding’s knowledge of construction materials and methods, Sain, along with colleagues Larry Young and Fred Jones, are totally sold on Indigo Pine. 

Therese Griffin, Marketing and Philanthropy Manager for SCANA, SCE&G’s parent company, discusses Indigo Pine’s innovative design and construction with student project leader Clair Dias.

In addition to UFP, several other corporate partners have been major collaborators with Clemson on this unique project. South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) provided the team with guidance on deploying the solar cells; Georgia-Pacific provided the yellow pine that makes up the bulk of the material for the home; Philips Lighting offered low-wattage fixtures and a lighting strategy; Dell provided computers for the creation of the Building Information Model and the transfer of the plans to Irvine; and Bosch provided a travel grant for Clemson’s Solar Decathlon team to travel to the European Solar Decathlon as well as appliances for the home.  

Indigo Pine represents true, organic collaboration: a group of bright, passionate students, led by knowledgeable and experienced faculty members, supported by diverse corporate partners, seek to design and build a home intended not only to win a competition, but to transform the way our region, our state and our country think about the home, the environment and the impact our actions will have on the future of the natural world.

For more information and a full list of corporate sponsors, visit

To view the unveiling of Indigo Pine, visit

Clemson University
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.