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Solar Decathlon Contests

Like the Olympic decathlon, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon consists of 10 Contests. The Contests evaluate cost-effective design; innovation balanced with market potential; comfort and environmental quality; resilience and operations; and overall presentation.

Each Solar Decathlon Contest is worth a maximum of 100 points, for a potential competition total of 1,000 points.

Teams can earn points three ways:

  1. Task Completion
    Teams complete tasks that simulate modern living, such as cooking, doing laundry, or charging an electric vehicle with energy from the house's solar electric system.
  2. Monitored Performance
    Team houses and appliances perform to specified criteria, such as maintaining indoor temperature and humidity within a tight range, ensuring refrigerators maintain appropriate temperatures, and carefully controlling the flow of electricity between the house and the utility.
  3. Jury Evaluation
    Jurors who are experts in fields, such as architecture, engineering, homebuilding, and communications, award points for features that cannot be measured, such as aesthetics, design inspiration, and innovation.

Contests based on task completion or monitored performance are called Measured Contests; contests based on jury evaluation are call Juried Contests.

Learn more about the 10 Solar Decathlon 2020 Build Challenge Contests:

Energy Performance
Engineering
Financial Feasibility & Affordability
Resilience
Architecture
Operations Operations
Market Potential
Comfort & Environmental Quality
Innovation
Presentation

Energy Performance

Superior energy performance is at the heart of the Solar Decathlon. This Contest evaluates the building’s energy use and production, as well as its capability to provide energy services—whether connected to the electricity grid or operating with on-site and/or stored power.

Each team's Energy Performance score will be the combined total from five Subcontests, including Energy Efficiency, Energy Production, Net-Zero Plus Energy, Demand Response, and Off-Grid Functionality.

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Engineering

This Contest evaluates the effective integration of high-performance engineering systems, including heating, cooling, water, and ventilating systems. Solar Decathlon houses reflect different technology and integration options, providing an analysis of design implications for energy and environmental performance, up-front and long-term costs, and reliability.

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Financial Feasibility & Affordability

The purpose of this Contest is to ensure the team’s unique housing solution is affordable and cost-effective for occupants. The jury evaluates each house's financial constructed costs and overall ability to address growing affordability challenges in the housing industry.

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Resilience

Resilience is the ability to anticipate, withstand, respond to, and recover from disruptions. This Contest evaluates the building’s ability to withstand and recover from prevailing disaster risks for its intended location, maintain critical operations during grid disruptions that commonly occur post-disasters, and ensure long-term durability in response to local climatic conditions.

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Architecture

This Contest evaluates the building's architectural design for its creativity, overall integration of systems, and ability to deliver outstanding aesthetics and functionality along with energy-efficient performance. A jury scores each project across multiple criteria ranging from concepts and innovation to documentation and implementation.

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Operations

Building systems, appliances, and features should be thoughtfully selected and integrated into the overall design of a Solar Decathlon house. This Contest evaluates how effectively the building carries out its intended functions while also ensuring persistence of performance.

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Market Potential

This Contest evaluates the building’s responsiveness to its stated target market, likely appeal to intended occupants, and ability to transform how energy is used in buildings given its approach and wide-scale desirability. It also includes construction documentation to help ensure best practices and quality workmanship.

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Comfort & Environmental Quality

Well-designed buildings provide both a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. This Contest evaluates the building’s ability to function within specific temperature, humidity, and noise levels, as well as provide efficient ventilation, filtration, dilution, and material selection strategies.

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Innovation

Effective designs incorporate innovations that can be embraced by the construction industry and consumers on a large scale. Solar Decathlon teams are encouraged to find solutions that use new or existing technologies, as well as other creative measures to improve building operations and desirability.

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Presentation

Presentation quality can dramatically affect market perception and the likelihood of innovation adoption. This Contest evaluates the team’s ability to accurately and effectively convey its design and energy performance strategy to relevant audiences.

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For complete information, see the Solar Decathlon 2020 Rules.