TechStyle Haus/ Solar Decathlon - CODAworx

TechStyle Haus/ Solar Decathlon

Client: Rhode Island School of Design/ Solar Decathlon

Location: Versailles, France

Completion date: 2014

Project Team

Design concept, project management

Cynthia Thompson


student team leader

Kim Dupont-Madinier


fabric ceiling frame design, engineering, installation

Tom Chabot


fabric ceiling pattern, fabrication, installation

Beth Austin


faculty leader

Jonathan Knowles



The quietest entry of 2014, TechStyle Haus was designed and built by students from Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany.

Solar Decathlon is sponsored by the US Department of Energy to foster new sustainable design strategies.

This small house (825 ft2) is designed to be shipped overseas in a standard shipping container, and assembled on site in a few days. TechStyle Haus (a net-zero passive solar house) is so named because its shell, insulation, walls and ceiling all rely on high-performance textiles made possible by recent advances in material science.

With many new technologies to research, design and execute in a short time, the students wisely reached out to numerous manufacturers and designers for assistance.

Five weeks before the house was to be shipped to France from Rhode Island, progress came to an abrupt halt when the local awning shop realized that their idea of how to make a taut fabric ceiling, invisibly suspended inside the house, was not going to work. Through a colleague, Jonathan Knowles contacted Cindy Thompson to ask if Transformit could help, “pro bono”.

A fast-track design process showed that Thompson’s artistic construction method would also succeed at the practical level.


The primary goal was to get it made, installed, and knocked down in time to make the freighter to France.
It was also necessary to teach the students how to install the ceiling a second time, in Versailles, as Cindy’s “pro bono” account ran out of “bono” before the boat sailed!


A design charrette of Transformit's team and RISD students quickly reduced the project to manageable simplicity, while accounting for the difficulties posed by the bright orange ratchet straps used to suspend the insulation above the ceiling.

Additional Information

At the Solar Decathlon exhibition in Versailles, the TechStyle Haus was viewed in person by 80,000 visitors. After the exhbition, it was knocked down, transported to Lessac, and reassembled by the students at Domaine de Boisbuchet, where it has joined Alexander Von Vegesack's collection of architectural pavilions. (Vegesack is the former director of the Vitra Design Museum.) Domaine de Boisbuchet holds summer workshops for artists, architects, designers and students. Attendees may be lucky enough to reside in the TechStyle Haus during their stay.