On Monday, the 660-square-foot Michigan Solar House (MiSo) will be moved to Evart, Mich., in Osceola County.
Constructed for the 2005 Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C., the house was a collaborative, interdisciplinary project between students and faculty from the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning and several other University departments. Since its completion, MiSo has sat in Ann Arbor’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens as a public exhibit to help raise awareness for solar power and technology.
The house was sold to Lisa and Matt Gunneson last fall. This week, the couple will begin transportation of the house to their property in Evart, where they will live in the modular, solar-powered house full-time.
When the house was placed on the market by the UM Finance Procurement Services last October, the Gunnesons knew they wanted to make MiSo their home. Lisa Gunneson, a natural health therapist and educator, said they were looking for a house that would allow them to live a more natural, back-to-the-earth lifestyle.
“When we heard the solar home was up for auction, we put in a bid because we really want to live a simple, self-sufficient kind of life,” Gunnerson told MLive.
The Gunnesons also had a special connection to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens: the couple went to the gardens for their first date, and were married there in 2015.
The house — covered in aluminum casing and 30 solar panels — converts solar energy into hot water that provides power for all the house’s heating and electric needs. According to Architecture Prof. Harry Giles, the original faculty supervisor for the project, the house produces more energy than it uses. Inside the home, MiSo has a living room, kitchen, dining room and one bedroom. But Giles said it would be possible to expand MiSo into a two-bedroom, 950-square-foot house with the addition of more modules.
The creators originally designed it as a prototype to be mass-produced, though they have not yet built anymore like it. It was “envisioned as a residential module that would be universal, autonomous, and easily transported around the globe,” according to the Taubman School’s website.
Geoffrey Thün, associate dean for research and creative practice at the Taubman College, told the Daily in October that the goal of MiSo, and of the whole Solar Decathlon competition, was to expose more Americans to renewable energy living.
“It was a mechanism that was set up by the Department of Energy whose role was to try to expose new thinking associated with renewable energy to as wide a group of American citizens as possible,” Thün said.
Tomorrow, the Ann Arbor-based company Meadowlark Design + Build will transport the house from the gardens to the Gunneron’s Evart property. The Gunnesons hope to be living in the house full-time by spring. In the meantime, they’re working with Meadowlark to make the house a net-zero impact home, meaning it would be completely self-sustained.
“This is a one-of-a-kind home, and our expertise in sustainable construction will help ensure the Gunnesons transport and restore the home exactly to their specifications,” said Doug Selby, CEO of Meadowlark Design + Build, in a press release to PRNewswire.com. “It’s also a labor of love, as two of our staff members, Jen Hinesman and Melissa Kennedy, were part of the University of Michigan team that created the MiSo back in 2005.

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