DALE: A Shape-Shifting Micro House Powered By The Sun

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with tiny houses. I love how affordable, efficient, and portable they can be, not to mention how they force us to eliminate all but the most essential personal possessions. Micro houses are perfect for two, or even three adults, but what happens when you want to entertain out of town friends or start a family?

DALE (Dynamic Augmented Living Environment) is a 2013 Solar Decathlon entry created by students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Its net-zero, modular design allows this solar-powered home to more than double its size when it’s time to party.

DALE micro house

Image via SCI-ARC Caltech

An expandable house? I’m sure you’re wondering how this is possible. Apparently, DALE is comprised of two sections, Module A which includes two bedrooms, a living room, and a multipurpose space that could be used as an office or entertainment room. Module B includes a kitchen, bathroom, and “mechanical room,” which is where all the green technology is hidden. The modules are set on rails that allow them to telescope into each other or expand outward, depending on the current need for space. DALE has about 600 sq ft to when contracted but a whopping 1,800 sq ft when fully deployed.

“DALE not only moves on rails but each module is equipped with a canopy/sleeve that telescopes along the axis of module movement,” write the designers. “Each canopy has integrated photovoltaics on the top plane and operable louvers on the vertical faces. The result is controlled shade to offset thermal gain, passive ventilation and adjustable privacy.”

Well that explains the shape-shifting but what about the net-zero part?

“Electricity is delivered via solar panels and an inverter, while an outdoor condenser can be used to extract heat from the outside air, or expel heat from the house,” reports Gizmag. “A solar hot water tank also provides hot water, and an energy monitoring system will be installed to allow occupants to keep a close eye on their energy usage.”

Follow DALE’s journey to the Solar Decathlon here.


  • Reply July 19, 2013

    arch stanton

    Nice, if you have no bugs or rattlers, and can weatherproof the seams.

    • Reply July 20, 2013


      You can weatherproof the seams easily enough, (think sliding glass door,) but it needs a foundation as big as you’d ever expand this thing (you can’t really plant plants around the smaller house,) and the house has to be on flat ground, and then you hydraulics (or something) to move everything, (it will be heavy.) All of those are very solvable problems of course, but how is it easier than a small (fixed) house with a big (fixed) deck?

  • Reply July 20, 2013

    Jane Davison

    This is a wonderful house which should be explored here in New York State. To have the different parts move from 600 feet to 1800 is really good. I loved the idea of the solar panels being used and that the bedrooms are part of the patitons and that nice wood floor. The canapies were nice too.

    • Reply July 22, 2013

      Mary McGuirk

      Thing is, you can build the entire 1800-2400 square feet PERMANENT with just the two 600 foot modules and indoor outdoor area covered by shades for what it would cost to build complicated MOVEABLE things. AND you can have the awnings fold down and the bedrooms collapse inside too!

  • Reply October 12, 2013

    Power Of Green

    Hello. Happy also to add that DALE & Stanford were the only entries whose builds on site at Solar Decathlon 2013 powered by Portable Off Grid Solar as well! Cal Tech/SCI-Arc entry was sponsored by powerofgreenla.com and Stanford was powered by Sol Solutions & www.powerofgreenworld.com

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