The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, which launched in 2002 and will present its fifth competition in 2011, is one of the world’s most instructive and rigorous academic competitions. Twenty teams of college students design, build, and operate small solar-powered houses that they will transport, often as modules or collapsed panels, to the Decathlon site. There, they will reconstruct their houses and prepare them for visitors and judges. The principal aim of the Decathlon is to educate not only the students but the public about renewable-energy products and about buildings that are at once affordable, highly energy efficient, and attractive.
A world of great ideas
A competition for young architects, engineers, and construction managers that promotes sustainable thinking. We’ll add more Solar Decathlon teams to this map as we cover them.
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The 2011 Solar Decathlon teams:
Appalachian State UniversityFlorida International UniversityMiddlebury CollegeNew Zealand: Victoria University of WellingtonOhio State UniversityParsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of TechnologyPurdue UniversityThe Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of TechnologyTeam Belgium: Ghent UniversityTeam Canada: University of CalgaryTeam China: Tongji UniversityTeam Florida: The University of South Florida, Florida State University, The University of Central Florida, and The University of FloridaTeam Massachusetts: Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at LowellTeam New Jersey: Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey and New Jersey Institute of TechnologyTeam New York: The City College of New YorkTeam Tidewater Virginia: Old Dominion University and Hampton UniversityUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUniversity of MarylandThe University of TennesseeUniversity of Hawaii team has withdrawn from the competition
Each of the 20 entries must provide between 600 and 1,000 sq. ft. of interior space, and will be judged in 10 contest categories: architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, comfort zone (temperature and humidity), hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and net metering. Each team’s commitment of time and energy is enormous. The lot size for each project is 78 ft. by 60 ft., and there is an 18-ft. height limit.
Most projects accepted into the competition undergo a year or more of development before they are presented to the DOE for possible inclusion in the Solar Decathlon. Once a project is accepted into the competition, the students involved have less than two years to complete its design, construction, and testing before they disassemble the structure and prepare it for transport to the competition site. Each team also is responsible for raising most of the funds that will be required to develop, construct, and transport their entry.
Since the inaugural Solar Decathlon in 2002, the competition has been held in 2005, 2007, and 2009. In collaboration with the DOE, similar events also are held outside the U.S. The first Solar Decathlon Europe was held in 2010 in Madrid, and a follow-up European competition, featuring 20 teams, is scheduled for 2012. Also recently announced: the first , which is scheduled for 2013.
It’s a world-wide event
In addition to teams affiliated with schools in the U.S., Solar Decathlon 2011 will include teams from Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China. As were all previous U.S.-based Solar Decathlons, the 2011 contest will be presented in Washington, D.C.
At the International Builders Show in Orlando, Fine Homebuilding senior editor Justin Fink and Web producer Daniel Morrison stumbled across the Solar Decathlon teams displaying scale models of their houses.
Fortunately, they had a video camera, so they took a day to interview as many of the teams as could be located. (The Chinese team wasn’t present because they had visa problems, and the Belgian team apparently had difficulty navigating the time change from Europe to Florida.)
At least that’s what they were told.