The 10 Contest Categories for the 2011 Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon university teams will be travelling to Washington D.C. this fall to construct their solar efficient homes for the competition and to display their projects to the public.

The Solar Decathlon will take place from September 23 through October 2, 2011 in Washington D.C.

Team Germany won the 2009 Solar Decathlon with their solar paneled home. Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solar Decathlon

Homes will be measured for efficiency and judged on their overall design and comfort by a team of architects, builders, designers, representatives from the energy industry as well as by other Solar Decathlon participants.

Similar to a traditional decathlon, the final winner will be the one that receives the most points in 10 different categories.

To be successful in the Solar Decathlon, all the different aspects of the team must both work together well and score better than all the other teams.  The 10 Solar Decathlon categories – drum roll please…

The 2011 Solar Decathlon Categories

  • Architecture (1) and  Engineering (2)  – 100 points each

Respective Architecture and Engineering juries will review the design drawings, construction, energy analysis results as well as the architecture and engineering presentations.

  • Market Appeal (3) – 100 points

The Market Appeal jury will assess the overall levels of comfort, function, marketability and buildability of the houses.

  • Communications (4)  – 100 points

Within the Communications category, team websites as well as other communications materials such as the video walkthrough, the public exhibit presentation, and materials for the Solar Decathlon will be assessed.

The University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign secured 2nd place with their Gable House in the 2009 Solar Decathlon. Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solar Decathlon


  • Affordability (5) – 100 points

To be awarded points in the Affordability category, a professional cost estimator will create an estimated construction cost. If the cost of the house is less than $250,000 dollars, the maximum amount of 100 points will be earned, while reduced points will be awarded if the cost of the home is projected to cost between $250,000 to $600,000.  If over its cost is over $600,000 dollars, no points will be earned.

  • Comfort Zone (6) – 100 points

To assess the Comfort Zone, points will be given when the temperature of the
Decathlon house is between 71 to 76 degrees (75 points) and the humidity levels are kept below 60% (25 points).

  • Hot Water (7) – 100 points

In the process of testing the Hot Water capabilities of the house, 16 different hot water draws, each delivering 15 gallons of water at a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit will be drawn within 10 minutes. For full points, the temperature must be above 110 F. while reduced points will be awarded for temperatures between 100 and 110 F. No points will be awarded for temperatures less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The University of California was awarded 3rd place with the Refract House in the 2009 Solar Decathlon. Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solar Decathlon

  • Appliances (8) – 100 points

The Appliances to be measured are the refrigerator (10 points), freezer (10 points), clothes washer (20 points), clothes dryer (40 points) and dishwasher (20 points).

– Refrigerator – A maximum of 10 points will be awarded for a temperature that stays between 34 to 40 degrees.   Temperatures outside of that range will lose points.

– Freezer – For a maximum of 10 points, the temperature must be kept within the -20 to -5 degree range.

– Clothes Washer / Dryer – The team must wash a load of 6 bath towels in an uninterrupted cycle within a certain time frame. There will be 8 loads of laundry throughout the week that must be washed and thoroughly dried. The laundry will be weighed to gauge how dry the towels are for a total of 40 points.

– Dishwasher – 5 loads of dishes, consisting of 6 place settings must be successfully washed for a total of 20 points.


  • Home Entertainment (9) – 100 points.  Including the following subcategories: Lighting – 40 points, Cooking – 20 points, Dinner Party – 10 juried points, Home Electronics – 25 points, Movie Night – 5 juried points)

A look inside of the 2009 Solar Decathlon winner's home, from Team Germany. Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon team homes are expected to function as comfortable, efficient, livable homes.  Unlike some solar off-the-grid types of homes that judiciously turn off all lights when not in use, the Solar Decathlon homes will be assessed with all the lights on, at full levels in the night (40 points).

– Cooking – Assessed with the team utilizing any appliance to vaporize 5 pounds of water within a specified amount of time.  If between 1 and 5 pounds of water are left, reduced points will be awarded (20 points).

– Dinner Party – Host 2 dinner parties for 8 participants.  All the food must be prepared and served in the conditioned space of the home (juried 10 points).

– Home Electronics – The computer (screen size at least 17″) and TV (screen size at least 19″) will be operated at a minimum of 75% brightness display, during specified times (25 points).

– Movie Night – Host a movie night on the home theater system (juried 5 points).

The Solar Decathlon homes are expected to perform at a high levels of performance and efficiency while functioning much like any modern home.

And finally, the last Solar Decathlon category…

  • Energy Balance (10) Net-Zero or better – 100 points

If the solar powered home produces more energy than it consumes, then it has achieved Energy Balance. In order to receive full points, the home must produce at least as much energy as it uses.



The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign won both the Appliances and Entertainment categories in 2009. Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Solar Decathlon






May the best team take home the title for the 2011 Solar Decathlon!

See the 20 teams in the 2011 Solar Decathlon.

The 2011 Solar Decathlon Main Website



Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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