The Best of the Solar Decathlon
Innovation from fresh minds is encouraged and spurred when colleges and universities compete in the most challenging solar home design competition in the world, the Solar Decathlon. Spanning over two years of work, architecture and engineering schools pooled their best and brightest to build efficient solar houses.
Here’s a subjective “Best of” from the 2011 Solar Decathlon. The photo and name link to the article, while other links go to a specific section in the article.
Best Passive Solar
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand | First Light
- Classy integration of passive solar thermal mass, best tucked away sleeping areas, and passive cooling in a lovely house endowed with a dose of zen.
- Best to home put on a beach
- Cool and noteworthy: A solar hydronic drying cabinet (nice for swimsuits – and other clothes)
- 1st Place in the Engineering category
Middlebury College, Vermont | Self Reliance
- Great combination of southern facing glazing with thermal mass
- Ingenious planting wall with solar control.
- Coolest Passive Solar – Grow space
Appalachian State University, North Carolina | Solar Homestead
- Cool Trombe wall – window modification
- Best outside living area
- The Solar Homestead won the People’s Choice Award – They also did a great job marketing as their team handed out pamphlets that doubled as a shiny, reflective hats. To my amusement and mild annoyance, because people wore them, the shiny hat kept getting in the photos of the other houses.
Team Tidewater | Unit 6
Old Dominion University and Hampton University
- Best Passive solar porch
- Phase change material under tiles to bulk up the thermal mass in the porch
- Passive cooling with air currents
Team New Jersey | EnJoy
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Best, massive use of thermal mass within passive solar design
- House that could be in a museum of modern art
Team Massachusetts | 4D Home
The Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell
- Best student designed furniture: A cork, titanium chair caught my eye.
- Coolest Solar blocking – overhang
- The 4D Home also had sliding walls and placed 2nd in the Energy Balance category
Best Ingenious Design
Team California | Chip
Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology
- Coolest High Tech House, with motion detection to save energy, house with an app
- Cool student designed furniture
- Team that seemed to be having the most fun (ie. great teamwork)
Best Zen House
University of Maryland | Watershed
- Best symbiotic relationship with nature – house
- Best shower
- Overall Winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon
Best Passive Cooling
Best Protected in a Hurricane
Florida International University | PerFORM[D]ance House
- Best house with a view
- Most poetic
Super Cool Things Listing
– Cool Windows
– Cool ‘Biowall’
- Purdue – A biowall is a plant air filtration system set into the wall. They also had shades that alternated a solid and translucent material that allowed more or less light into the room
– Cool Room Dividers, Moveable Walls
- China, Massachusetts, Old Dominion / Hampton – All had moveable partitions or walls within the house.
– House with a desiccant system
– Control House with an App
– Most Surprised By
- China – Who would have thought that living in shipping containers could be so nice?
- City College of NY, Solar Roof Pod – Dwelling designed for rooftops
- Parson NS Stephens, Empowerhouse – Building for Community, Efficiency
- University of Calgary – TRTL – Building for the Rez, Permafrost
Other Participants in the 2011 Solar Decathlon
This ‘Best of’ was based off my experience at the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Some university teams gave great tours, thus making knowledge and information available.
There is another Solar Decathlon coming up in 2013. Attend to get inspiration and join in the fun!