Students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), have joined forces to produce a net-zero micro-home concept for 2013's Solar Decathlon competition. Dubbed DALE, the futuristic dwelling is able to expand in size for those situations in which you don't want your micro-home to be quite so micro.

DALE (or the Dynamic Augmented Living Environment) comprises two modules which are joined together with an airtight seal. The modules are set on rails in order to enable them to separate, and thus create a courtyard space (with optional solar canopy). This increases the useable space from 600 sq ft to almost 1,800 sq ft (55–167 sq m). When required, the home can be contracted to its former size.

We've no additional information on how the rail system works at present, but have reached out to the company for clarification.

Module A contains two bedrooms, a living room, and a multipurpose space suitable for use as an office or entertainment area. Module B includes a kitchen, bathroom, and "mechanical room," which houses all the the green technology required to make the home net-zero. The interior is based around suspended sliding partitions, and so can be re-arranged to a degree, depending on the needs of its occupants.

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. 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.

Finer details are still a little thin on the ground at present, but the SCI-Arc and Caltech students expect to have a prototype ready for testing by late August, well in time for the annual US Department of Energy-sponsored Solar Decathlon to be held this October.

The video below shows a little more detail on the project.

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