The Best of the Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon Winning House from Maryland

All the competition homes are on display to the public during 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

solar decathlon 2011  home from Wellington UniversityVictoria 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


solar decathlon 2011 house from middlebury collegeMiddlebury College, Vermont | Self Reliance


Solar Decathlon home from Appalachia 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.


solar decathlon 2011 home from old dominion and hampton

Team Tidewater | Unit 6
Old Dominion University and Hampton University


solar decathon 2011 home from rutgers concreteTeam 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
solar decathlon home from massachusettsThe Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell


 Best Ingenious Design

solar decathlon home from team california 2011Team California | Chip
Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology


Best Zen House

2011 solar decathlon home from maryland universityUniversity of Maryland | Watershed

  • Best symbiotic relationship with nature – house
  • Best shower
  • Overall Winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon


Best Passive Cooling

Team Tidewater, Purdue, Team Cali, Team New Jersey, and the Univ. of Wellington


Florida International's house had raised metal shutters that provided shade and could be lowered to protect the house in the event of a hurricane.

Best Protected in a Hurricane

Florida International University | PerFORM[D]ance House

  • Best house with a view
  • Most poetic


Super Cool Things Listing

2011 solar decathlon home from tennessee– 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


– House with a desiccant system

– Control House with an App


solar decathlon home 2011 from china– 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


Everyone gathered in the big tent to hear the section winners during the Solar Decathlon.

Everyone gathered in the big tent to hear the section winners during the 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!




Keya Lea

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

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