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Local Issues, Global Impacts: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Juror

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

I have a confession to make. My name is Stacy Hunt, and I’m a serial juror for the international editions of Solar Decathlon. It’s okay, the addiction is self-limiting and mostly benign. 🙂

That said, I’m in pretty deep at this point. In 2019, I had the opportunity to be a juror at all three international competitions: July in Budapest, Hungary for Solar Decathlon Europe, September in Marrakech, Morocco, for Solar Decathlon Africa, and most recently in Cali, Colombia for Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean.

My fixation with the program began in the U.S.—I’ve worked in public-private, buildings-related energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for more than 20 years. Our company, Confluence Communications, has helped organize Solar Decathlon events since 2013.

A group photo of men and women, including Stacy Hunt.

What keeps me coming back for more? Solar Decathlon contestants and events have an incredible energy. Pun intended. The competitions have always provided a heartwarming, inspiring, and unique breath of fresh air among the day-to-day challenges of my career promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. The competition generates thoughtful, well-educated professionals who go on to change the world in which we live—and we can always use more people like this.

I was given the chance to jury internationally for the first time this year, and it deepened my perspective on both our students and the program’s impacts. Our international teams weren’t just addressing the familiar issues related to buildings and renewables integration that are tackled in every U.S. competition. They were also focused on clear and definitive issues specific to their own regions of the world: Climate. Socio-economic impacts. Culture. Infrastructure.

For instance, Eastern European students were challenged by an aging building stock and Soviet-era housing policy and infrastructure. African students confronted issues related to building in a harsh climate with water and material resource constraints. Student projects sited in Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted disaster resistance and recovery challenges.

They all rose to the occasion.

Take my most recent international jurying experience in Cali as part of the Competition’s Marketing, Communications, and Social Awareness Contest. The Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean students showed me how the competition can have impacts beyond inspiring global innovation and workforce development. This program creates bridges that may not otherwise be possible, with a basis of cooperation and innovation.

A photo of several children playing with solar powered fans.

Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean focused on important issues related to our built environment, but true to its slogan, Casa Para Todos (“Housing for All”), it also had a unique focus on accessible housing, affordability, and regional relevance. Because of significant disaster events and the need for resiliency and adaptation strategies in the region, organizers and many teams focused efforts on solutions applicable to Buenaventura, a coastal seaport city in the department of Valle del Cauca on the west coast of Colombia.

The difference? By expanding its sights beyond just the built environment and immediate community, the Cali edition of Solar Decathlon actually contributed to an important part of the Colombian peace process: creating housing for territories in the process of peaceable reincorporation after the country’s decades-long civil war. A partnership with the government of Valle del Cauca and the Colombian Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization will work to utilize prototypes and lessons learned from Solar Decathlon to create this new housing.

Cutting-edge creativity, global connections, and real-world impacts—you can see why I can’t get enough. Stay tuned in the coming months for exciting news about the future of Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean!

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