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Swiss Team Wins Architecture and Water Contests at U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Solar Decathlon Open to the Public Today through Sunday, October 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


DENVER, CO – Before an enthusiastic crowd near the 61st and Peña Station in Denver, Colorado, the Swiss team took first place with a perfect score of 100 points in the highly competitive Architecture Contest, and also clinched top honors in the Water Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon 2017. For the Architecture Contest, the students were judged on the design and construction of attractive, high-performance houses that integrate renewable energy systems and energy-saving technologies. In the new Water Contest, teams were evaluated on how well their houses conserve water, enable reclamation and reuse, and integrate low-water landscaping. The 10 contests that make up the Solar Decathlon encourage teams to design and build comfortable, solar-powered, innovative houses that combine highly energy- and water-efficient construction designs, appliances and renewable energy systems.

“Most of the highly efficient products and designs featured at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon are within reach today and can help homeowners reduce their energy and water use — and ultimately save money,” said Linda Silverman, director of the Solar Decathlon for the U.S. Department of Energy. “The Architecture and Water contests prepare these inspiring students with the skills and knowledge they need to design energy- and water-efficient buildings.”

The Solar Decathlon involves 10 contests that evaluate architecture, market potential, engineering, communications, innovation, water, health and comfort, appliances, home life, and the level of energy produced versus energy consumed. Each contest is worth 100 points – for a possible total of 1,000 points.

For the Architecture Contest, the jury focused on:

  • Architectural concept and design approach – including a clear concept; coherence among architectural, structural, and mechanical elements; and a sense of inspiration.
  • Architectural implementation and innovation – such as scale and proportion; holistic and integrated design; occupant comfort; material quality, detail and implementation; and use of a small floor plan.
  • Documentation – including drawings, construction specifications, and an audiovisual presentation that accurately reflect the constructed project on the competition site.

The Swiss Team – comprised of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg – earned 100 points to win the Architecture Contest. Tim Unruh, DOE Assistant Deputy Secretary for Renewable Power, said, “The Swiss Team house provides a rethinking of solar in architecture: PV (photovoltaics), windows and solar thermal are all integrated into one wall design.” The Swiss team roared their approval of being presented the first-place award in front of an audience that included government officials, Solar Decathlon student team members and visitors to the event.

Washington-St. Louis University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas tied for second place with 94 points, and Missouri S&T took third place with 85 points. Full details on the Architecture Contest results will be available at

Debuting this year, the Water Contest is important not only because water is a precious resource, but also because water and energy are inextricably linked — it takes water to make the energy we use, and it takes energy to treat and deliver the clean water we require. A jury of industry professionals evaluated each team’s approach to water based on the following three major areas: conservation, reclamation and reuse, and landscaping.

The Swiss Team earned 95 points to also win the Water Contest. Scott Morrissey, director of sustainability at Denver International Airport said, “The jurors noted that the [Swiss Team] had the most comprehensive and integrated management of water at Solar Decathlon 2017. The clearly calculated amount of actual water consumption is very low for this house. With a green roof, this house expertly integrates storm water into its design. This house successfully uses kitchen water as part of a grey water system, sports an innovative composting toilet, and offers simplicity with a combined water and energy dashboard to help track usage.”

University of California, Davis won second place with 87 points, and Team Netherlands took third place with 81 points. Full details on the Water Contest results will be available at

The Swiss Team is currently in 1st place in the competition with a solid lead of 45 points. Netherland’s finish moved them into 2nd place in the overall competition, and Maryland moved into 3rd place. Four juried contests still remain, as well as four measured contests that are ongoing until Friday. Check out the final overall standings of the contests.

Results from the Innovation and Communications contests, worth 100 points each, will be announced Friday, October 13 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time in the Wells Fargo Education Tent at the 61st and Peña Station in Denver, Colorado.  The overall winner of the Solar Decathlon will be announced on Saturday, October 14, at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time in the Wells Fargo Education Tent.

Cast a vote for your favorite Solar Decathlon house to win the People’s Choice Award. Anyone with a Facebook profile can submit a single vote in the poll through October 14 at midnight. The People’s Choice Award winner will be broadcast live on Solar Decathlon’s Facebook page on October 15, 2017, at approximately 10:45 a.m. MDT from the Victory Breakfast.

Solar Decathlon 2017 teams competing in Denver, Colorado

  • Las Vegas: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Maryland: University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
  • Missouri S&T: Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
  • Netherlands: HU University of Applied Science Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Northwestern: Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)
  • Swiss Team: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Team Alabama: University of Alabama at Birmingham and Calhoun Community College (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • Team Daytona Beach: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Florida)
  • UC Berkeley/U of Denver: University of California, Berkeley, and University of Denver (Berkeley, California)
  • UC Davis: University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
  • Wash U – St. Louis: Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri)


The Solar Decathlon houses are open to the public for free tours today through Sunday, October 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ride the University of Colorado A line commuter rail to the event site at the 61st and Peña Station (Google map Solar Decathlon) near Denver International Airport. Free parking will be available, as well as $2.00 parking in the solar-covered parking lot operated by RTD (see directions and a map). For full event information, current standings, high-resolution photos, and videos, visit You may also follow the competition in real time on Facebook at and Twitter at @Solar_Decathlon. Photos are also available on Flickr at

More about the Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition made up of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency. Competing students gain hands-on experience and unique training that prepares them to enter the energy workforce. Solar Decathlon is more than a student competition. It’s an intensive learning experience for consumers and homeowners as they experience the latest technologies and materials in energy-efficient design, innovative energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation measures, electric vehicles, and sustainable buildings

Solar Decathlon 2017 is made possible by a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Energetics Incorporated, with the generous support of the Solar Decathlon 2017 Supporting Sponsors — Wells Fargo, the City and County of Denver, and Denver International Airport (DEN); and Solar Decathlon 2017 Contributing sponsors L.C. Fulenwider, Schneider Electric, Regional Transportation District, Xcel Energy and Panasonic Enterprise Solutions.

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