Media Advisory: Walls up! Construction is underway on UB’s solar-powered GRoW Home

An animation showing what the GRoW Home is expected to look like when completed. Credit: Duane Warren, Chris Osterhoudt, Nick Karl and Aaron Salva.

The structure is UB’s entry in an international design contest

Release Date: March 23, 2015

“This project is not just about solving the big problems, it’s about doing it in a way that’s compelling.”
Martha Bohm, assistant professor of architecture
University at Buffalo

Download High-Res Images:

A house with solar panels all over the roof.

What the GRoW Home is expected to look like when complete. Credit: Fall 2014 Solar Decathlon studio at UB; rendering work by Nate Heckman, Michael Tuzzo and Duane Warren.

People gardening inside a space that's partially exposed to the outdoors.

Another view of the planned GRoW Home. Credit: Fall 2014 Solar Decathlon studio at UB; rendering work by Nate Heckman, Michael Tuzzo and Duane Warren.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Tuesday, March 24, media are invited to visit the construction site of the GRoW Home, an 1,100-square-foot solar house that University at Buffalo students are building for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon contest.

The project resonates with Buffalo’s urban farming trend: In addition to producing twice the energy it consumes, the home will include a sizable greenhouse for growing food year-round.

The finished structure will be shipped to Irvine, California, in October for the Solar Decathlon, which promotes sustainability and energy-saving residential designs. UB is one of only 16 intercollegiate teams worldwide competing in this prestigious biennial contest.

On March 24, media can expect to see the students erecting walls.

What: GRoW Home construction.

When: Tuesday, March 24, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Construction began in mid-February and is still in the early stages. On Tuesday, student volunteers will be building some of the walls of the home.

Martha Bohm, the project’s faculty advisor and assistant professor in the UB Department of Architecture, will be on hand for interviews, along with student construction managers Joseph Tuberdyck and Matthew Kreidler.

Where: The Riverview Solar Technology Park, 600 Riverwalk Pkwy., Tonawanda, where Montante Solar has donated warehouse space for construction.

Directions: From Riverview Road in Tonawanda, turn onto Riverwalk Parkway, where you will see a group of solar panels. Follow Riverwalk Parkway until you see 600 on your left side. Turn into the parking lot and go around the building to the back. When you’re facing the back of the building, the warehouse housing the GRoW Home can be accessed through the last door on the right.

About the GRoW Home: Led by the UB School of Architecture and Planning, the GRoW Home team includes the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; UB School of Management; UB College of Arts and Sciences; and Department of Landscape Architecture at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Since UB began pursuing the competition in 2012, the highly collaborative effort has involved 13 departments, nearly 150 students and dozens of faculty members. Students are also working closely with several local businesses in the design, building and solar energy fields.

GRoW stands for “Garden, Relax or Work,” and the home will embrace the urban farming culture of Buffalo, as well as its seasonal weather.

The house will be divided into three spaces:

  • GRoWlarium: a 338-square-foot, glass greenhouse.
  • Relax Module: the bedroom and central living space.
  • Work Module: a spacious kitchen for cleaning produce, cooking, eating and storing necessities, also with an adjoining bathroom.  

More design details:

The GRoW Home gives students the chance to complete a real-world project while learning how to work with peers from different backgrounds who think differently, a skill pertinent to the workplace.

“The competition is a great opportunity for this project to break new ground in energy-conscious design, educate our students on design and construction and in so doing create a new opportunity to further educate the public on sustainable living practices,” says Robert Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

“We think most energy goes into our cars and factories, but it’s really our homes, schools and offices that use half of the energy in the country,” Bohm says. “This project is not just about solving the big problems, it’s about doing it in a way that’s compelling. By being both problem solvers and creative designers, we can create a new kind of building.”

Once the home is completed, UB students will disassemble it and load it onto four semi-trucks to ship it to California for the competition, where the team will have 10 days to reassemble the house.

During the festival-style event, house entries will be on view and judged in 10 categories: architecture, engineering, energy balance, comfort zone, affordability, market appeal, appliances, home life, commuting and communications. The winning team receives a trophy and bragging rights.

After the competition, GRoW Home will return to Buffalo and become an energy education center for the community. Its permanent location has yet to be decided.


Materials were donated from corporate partners, and the U.S. Department of Energy supplied seed funding. Project sponsors include: LP Ciminelli, NYSERDA, Montante Solar, Watts Architecture and Engineering, R-Control SIPs, Thermal Foams, CannonDesign and LaBella Associates.

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