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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Competition’

Get a Sneak Preview of Solar Decathlon 2017 Houses

Monday, February 6, 2017

By Ruby Theresa Nahan

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 is only eight months away, but the competing teams have been hard at work for more than a year. Competition organizers recently reviewed team design development drawings, which reflect about 90% completion of the design details.

Solar Decathlon 2017 takes place in Denver, Colorado, at the 61st & Peña Station October 5–9 and October 12–15, 2017. So, just what are you going to see there? A few themes are emerging as the student teams’ ideas take shape:

Select the style that suits you from the list above, or read on for a full preview of the Solar Village coming to Denver in October.

The teams competing in the 2017 Solar Decathlon have submitted their
design development drawings, which reflect innovative efficiency and
sustainability elements.


Innovative Modular Construction

Think about this. The Solar Decathlon requires each team to design and build a house, then take it apart and ship it to the competition site. On the competition site, teams re-assemble their houses, then compete in 10 contests and provide free tours to the public. After the competition, teams take the houses apart again; and ship them to their final destinations, where they re-assemble them all over again. Needless to say, modular construction, in which sections or “modules” of the house are constructed in controlled conditions and then shipped to the site for final construction, is an appealing idea. These two teams are taking an innovative approach to modular construction.

Rather than prefabricating three-dimensional modules, such as an entire living, dining, and kitchen area of a house, the Netherlands’ team is taking a two-dimensional approach to modular construction. Their house will be assembled from façades, walls, floors, and roof sections that are manufactured, transported to, and assembled at the building site to minimize waste and construction time. Individual components of the house can be moved around to create a new layout or removed and reused in an entirely new structure.

Maryland’s reACT house is intended to serve as a seminal prototype for a “house as a kit of parts” design concept, with the kit consisting of separate components and systems parts that can be efficiently manufactured, transported, assembled, and disassembled. This home-building kit can be readily adapted to a range of clients, communities, construction technologies, and ecological environments.


Given Solar Decathlon houses must be transported to the competition site, it’s always a surprise to discover concrete in the mix of design approaches. The house being designed by the Wash U – St. Louis team consists of a single precast concrete structure intended as a demonstration of integrated advanced building technology and a compelling alternative to traditional wood, light-frame construction.

Water Conservation and Re-use

For the first time, Solar Decathlon 2017 includes a Water Contest, so you’ll see plenty of strategies for minimizing water use and maximizing water re-use, such as greywater reclamation, filtration and re-use; rainwater catchment and filtration; and low-water landscaping. UC Davis is making water the central focus of its Our H2Ouse (pronounced “Our House”). The team intends the design to respond specifically to the super drought that has gripped its home state of California for several years.

Accessibility and “Aging in Place”

Two teams are bringing houses designed for active seniors. Both houses feature key aging-in-place design elements such as adjustable countertops and wheelchair accessibility. However, the teams each present unique solutions to serve this growing market.

Team Las Vegas is constructing a house that features a retro 1960s aesthetic, but is completely tricked out with an integrated home application system that connects the occupants with security, heating and cooling, and lighting control from any mobile device, at home and away.

The team from Northwestern in Chicago has conducted interviews and home visits with individuals and couples who represent its soon-to-retire baby-boomer target market. The team will continue to engage these individuals for user testing and feedback throughout the process of building the house to ensure the finished product truly meets the needs of its intended occupants.

Reflecting Local Style and Needs

Architects use the expression “rooted in place” to describe a building that responds to the environment around it and supports local cultural values. These three teams have developed designs to respond specifically to their unique locations.

Team Alabama’s house features classic southern style with large overhangs and a welcoming front porch. The design is also inspired to respond to devastating tornados and includes a “strong room” that extends below the level of the house’s subfloor to allow permanent footings, so that even if the house around it is impacted by a tornado, the room and everyone in it survives.

What could be more fitting than a BEACH house from Florida! In this case, however, Team Daytona Beach is designing Building Efficient, Affordable, and Comfortable Homes (BEACH) that feature a forever-home design plan, allowing the homeowners the freedom to grow and stay in the house as long as they wish. Passive, energy-neutral technology is incorporated throughout the house and designed to perform in Florida’s hot, humid climate.

West Virginia is Offering Appalachian States Innovative Sustainability, or “OASIS,” a house the team intends to embody purity, privacy, and healthiness. These three core design principles were chosen in response to the mix of a rich cultural history rooted in the natural world and the impacts of industry in the Appalachia region. The design of OASIS combines modern technologies, traditional features, and reclaimed materials to create a house that both evokes and improves on the past while fitting right in with West Virginia’s increasingly modern, urban architecture.

A Larger Community Vision

Competing at the Solar Decathlon is just a first step for the teams and the houses they design, build, and operate. Where each house goes after the competition is up to the team. These four teams have plans to integrate their Solar Decathlon houses into a larger community context.

Intended for urban infill in Richmond, California, where land is scarce and expensive, the UC Berkeley/DU team set out to design a home that is simple, affordable, and sustainable. The result is R I S ☰ (RISE), a single-family home that meets the requirements of the Solar Decathlon competition, but is ultimately planned as just the first floor of a three-story multifamily housing building. The house design features moveable walls, so the unit can transform from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom unit, depending on the needs of the occupants.

Washington State’s Solar Decathlon house is planned as part of a village of not-quite-tiny houses that can fill an urban lot, which already has access to services, infrastructure, and utilities but may be a little too small or oddly shaped to be attractive to more conventional development.

The sustainability of the Swiss Team’s Solar Decathlon house goes beyond energy and materials. Its house is designed to be highly flexible so that over its long lifetime it can be whatever the community around it needs it to be—from a house to a community center to a bike shop or grocery store.

The Missouri S&T team will locate its SILO house in a solar village on campus, where it joins houses from five past Solar Decathlon competitions. Collectively, the village and its houses are called the S&T Solar House Project, which is a truly immersive learning experience, where student team members live in and learn from the existing houses while designing and building another one.

This sneak preview can give you an initial idea of the design approaches you’ll find at Solar Decathlon 2017, but there’s so much more to see. Visit the team pages to check out additional photos, videos, and details about the house (or houses) of your dreams.

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.

First Points

Friday, October 9, 2015

By Richard King

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 competition started yesterday at 11 a.m., giving teams nine days (until 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16) to prove they have the best house and a winning team.

The 10 Solar Decathlon contests are each worth 100 points for a total of 1,000 points. The first contest in which teams can start winning points is Contest 7: Appliances. Teams must turn on their refrigerator and freezer and keep them running consistently at specified temperatures for the entire nine days. To win the most points in Contest 7, the decathletes need to learn how to use all of their appliances (refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, cooktops, clothes washers and dryers) most efficiently.

Photo of two men weighing towels on a scale.

Decathletes from the University of California, Davis, Solar Decathlon 2015 team weigh towels for the Appliances Contest after they were washed and dried in their competition house on Friday, Oct. 9. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Teams receive 20 points for running their refrigerator and freezer optimally for the nine days. Each hour increment is worth one-half point. It will take a while, but by Oct. 16, the points should add up to 20.

Last night, the University of Buffalo held the lead, based primarily on the use of the team’s refrigerator and freezer.

Check out the scores and standings on our website, which are updated every 15 minutes.

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



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