Designing a good home is as much about the process as the product. Home designers are finding that "whole-house" design is critical when new technologies are included in a home's design. Whole-house design means that all components of the home must be designed to work together, because changing one part of the home can affect the other parts, resulting in lower energy performance.
For example, incandescent lights give off heat. If compact fluorescent lights are used instead, the homeowner not only uses less electricity for lighting, but the home may need a smaller air conditioner. Every design trade-off impacts the house. The Documentation contest awards points based on how well the teams analyzed their designs for energy performance and how thoroughly they documented the design process. Teams must document all stages, including the schematic design, design development, construction, and "as-built" phases of the Solar Decathlon project.