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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Solar Decathlon Blog - Solar Decathlon 2015

Below you will find Solar Decathlon news from the Solar Decathlon 2015 archive, sorted by date.

Über Smart Eco-Inventions Designed by Students

Friday, September 23, 2016

By Alexis Powers

Imagine building a single-family house with only hand-powered tools. Sounds crazy, right? Well, students from Clemson University built not just one such house, but two. They built a local version to stay in South Carolina and a traveling version to demonstrate this concept at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 competition. Their Sim[PLY] construction method allows an average person to assemble pre-cut, numbered components with just stainless steel zip ties. It’s like a three-dimensional puzzle of a 1,000-square-foot home…that’s also a totally livable home.

Students from Clemson University developed the Sim[PLY] structural building system, which uses a milling machine to cut plywood according to computer-generated cutting instructions. Photo from Clemson University Solar Decathlon 2015 Team

Students from Clemson University developed the Sim[PLY] structural building system, which uses a milling machine to cut plywood according to computer-generated cutting instructions. Photo from Clemson University Solar Decathlon 2015 Team

If your mind isn’t blown yet, now imagine a window shade that is activated by the sun’s heat—no cords, wands, or tabs needed. This kind of responsive architecture was just one component of an ecologically responsible house designed for the 2013 competition by students from the Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University. Their house, designed specifically for returning U.S. military veterans, used a network of activity sensors to analyze the lifestyle habits of its residents and recommend therapeutic solutions.

Photo of the exterior of the Team Capitol DC house.

Team Capitol DC developed an adaptable shading screen that improves energy performance in response to the exterior climate conditions. Photo from Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

While we’re at it, how about we eliminate clumsy, antiquated technologies such as light switches and remote controls? The Solar Decathlon 2011 team from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology programmed an Xbox Kinect system to be the command center of their eco-conscious home. Here, residents could use gestures to operate appliances and lights or turn on the TV just by sitting on the couch. This internet-connected house was even capable of conserving power generated by its solar panels if the forecast called for cloudy weather. Such smart home devices are still impressive five years later as the internet of things concept gains a foothold in today’s market.

Photo of a house diagram displayed on an iPad.

Students from the SCI-Arc/Caltech team designed an iPad app to control the lights, appliances, and entertainment system of their house during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. Photo from Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A comprehensive list of student ingenuity would go on and on. There’s the geopolymer concrete developed by UNC Charlotte students that replaces the conventional binding material responsible for 5%–8% of the worldwide carbon footprint with a waste product from coal production. There’s also the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York’s Growlarium that essentially puts a greenhouse around a regular house, then ventilates it automatically for efficiency, comfort, and year-round vegetation production. There are enough examples to complete dissertations and start companies, both of which have been done in several cases.

A canopy covering the enclosed portion of the University at Buffalo team’s GRoW Home serves as a trellis for plants, shades the house and deck to reduce cooling loads, and provides outdoor living space. Photo from Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A canopy covering the enclosed portion of the University at Buffalo team’s GRoW Home serves as a trellis for plants, shades the house and deck to reduce cooling loads, and provides outdoor living space. Photo from Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A major goal of the Energy Department and the Solar Decathlon is to speed up delivery of emerging technologies to the marketplace. While student-driven innovation has always been present at each biennial event, the 2017 competition will feature a new Innovation Contest for the first time. With cash prizes on the line, Solar Decathlon 2017 motivates students to exercise originality, solution-driven thinking, and impact analysis like never before.

Teams participating in Solar Decathlon 2017 are now hard at work designing houses powered entirely by the sun. On September 15, the students submitted their second set of deliverables to competition organizers. Although specific details won’t likely be revealed until closer to the start of the competition on October 5, 2017, follow Solar Decathlon on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to see these ideas develop in the meantime. Prepare to be inspired.

Shine On!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

By Richard King

When I first met the teams onsite three weeks ago I said it was their time to shine. And they did.  The decathletes shined so brightly they turned into stars!

Decathletes are not the type to skate through life. We have seen them in action and now have higher expectations for their continued leadership—leadership qualities our nation needs.

Solar Decathlon 2015 decathletes learned how to design and build sustainably from their faculty and mentors. They used their creativity to push us further into the future. And the power of their leadership is how they communicated to the country and the world how to live sustainably. They are students who teach. What an amazing benefit to themselves and mankind. They are totally awesome!

Photo of crowds of people within a village of solar-powered houses.

Thank you to the thousands of people who visited the Solar Decathlon 2015 village to support the student teams and tour their innovative houses. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

As the seventh U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon comes to a close, I am so grateful to everyone who made it a success.

Thank you to all the students and faculty who worked tirelessly to design, build, and showcase the houses.

Thank you to all the many sponsors who supported the teams and the competition.

Thank you to all the volunteers who gave their time and helped make our visitors feel special.

Thank you to the City of Irvine who made us feel at home—and to the ICTV crew whose daily videos made the competition come alive.

To the thousands of people who visited the Solar Decathlon village to support the teams and tour their innovative houses, thank you. Your delighted faces over the past two weeks gave us priceless energy!

And to our staff, who are the best, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Collectively, all of you made the Solar Decathlon 2015 a success. Thank you. Here’s to a bright future for all of us!

Richard King is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Stevens Wins Solar Decathlon 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

By Carol Laurie

Stevens Institute of Technology won top honors overall at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 by designing, building, and operating the most cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar powered house.

University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, took second place followed by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in third place.

Stevens’ win comes as no surprise to followers of the competition, as the team took first place in four of five juried contests and maintained the lead position in the competition over the last several days. Stevens Institute of Technology previously competed in Solar Decathlon 2011 and Solar Decathlon 2013.

Stevens Institute of Technology team members celebrate their overall 1st place victory at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015, October 17, 2015 at the Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California  (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Stevens Institute of Technology team members celebrate their overall first-place victory at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

At today’s awards ceremony, Energy Department Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Dr. David Danielson congratulated all decathletes on their accomplishments during the 2015 competition.

“On behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, thank you to each inspiring student competitor,” said Danielson. “Your hard work makes this unique competition possible. The homes you built demonstrate how affordable, renewable, and energy-saving products available today can cut energy bills, reduce pollution, and protect our climate. You have shown the skills and dedication necessary to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout our economy in the decades to come.”

Announcement of the overall winners followed exciting results of the Engineering Contest, in which Stevens took first place with a score of 93 of 100 possible points. Close behind with 92 points for second place was the hometown favorite Team Orange County (University of California, Irvine; Chapman University; Irvine Valley College; and Saddleback College). Texas/Germany (The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen) took third place with 91 points.

Full details about these results, scores, and standings are available here.

Come check out the winning houses for yourself! Tomorrow is the final day of public exhibit here at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. The Solar Decathlon village is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday.

Carol Laurie is the communications manager for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Stevens Leads After Taking First in Three of Four Juried Contests

Friday, October 16, 2015

By Carol Laurie

At the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015, Stevens Institute of Technology holds the lead after placing first in Market Appeal, Architecture, and Communications.

Stevens’ SURE HOUSE, a sustainable and resilient house for shore residents vulnerable to extreme weather conditions that could cause flooding and blackouts, earned 96 points to win the Architecture Contest.

“The Stevens design stacks up very favorably against many homes designed by seasoned architectural teams, and in fact outstrips the vast majority of U.S. houses when it comes to energy performance,” said Architecture Contest juror Ann Edminster, a leading international expert on green homes and chair of the Green Building Task Force for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America. “The love of community that drove this design inspired a highly effective collaboration, in turn giving rise to an exceptionally well-integrated final product that will benefit both the occupants and their larger community.”

Photo of a group of people cheering.

Stevens Institute of Technology celebrates after winning the Communications Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The Solar Decathlon involves 10 contests – each worth 100 points – for a possible competition total of 1,000 points.

Other juried contest results announced over the last two days include:

Affordability – The University of California, Davis, and Mass/Central America (Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana) tied for first place and earned the full 100 points by constructing houses estimated to cost $249,312 and $120,282, respectively. Texas/Germany (The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen) earned second place with 98.16 points for their house estimated to cost $268,399. Third place went to the State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University with 98.14 points for its house estimated to cost $268,637.

Market Appeal – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, took second place with 93 points for its house designed for coastal California, and Clemson University took third place with 96 points for its Indigo Pine house, which assembles like a jigsaw puzzle without the use of power tools.

Architecture – Clemson University claimed second place with 95 points, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, took third place with 94 points.

Communications – Clemson University finished second with 90 points, followed by the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York, in third place with 89 points.

Full details about these results, scores, and standings are available here.

Tomorrow is the big day! Results from the Engineering Contest and the overall winner of the Solar Decathlon will be announced at 9:45 a.m. PDT by Energy Department Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Dr. David Danielson.

Carol Laurie is the communications manager for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Time to Shine

Saturday, October 10, 2015

By Richard King

“Time to shine” is our theme. I think it is very appropriate for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Time is important to all of us. Especially since a lifetime is rather short when compared to all of human history. There are only a few times in your life that are truly memorable, and we all want to have the “time of our lives.”

The Solar Decathlon 2015 decathletes invested a huge amount of time to build their houses. They invested more time to reassemble them here in California. That invested time has benefits that will pay dividends for the rest of their lifetimes. And ours.

Photo of a young man speaking to a group of people.

Nate Heckman (center) of University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, gives a tour of the GRoWlarium, which is a combination solarium and green house at Solar Decathlon 2015. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

I like shine because the sun shines on us every day. And because the Solar Decathlon gives decathletes an opportunity to show the public their incredible work on a national stage. Solar decathletes are shining examples to us all.

It’s time to shine! Come be inspired by these amazing students and their houses. Visit the Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park. We’re open tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and we reopen during the same hours next Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 14-18. I hope to see you soon!

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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