Skip navigation to main content. U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun

Click photo to view high-resolution image.

Photo of a girl kneeling down to make a small repair on a railing.

The courtyard of the Cornell house gets some sprucing up from one of the decathletes.

Photo of a house without a roof. There are stacks of trusses along the side of the house.

The Wisconsin-Milwaukee house sits topless while the decathletes wait for the rest of their house to arrive.

Photo of a house under construction. Workers are standing inside a portion of the house that is without a wall. Another is on a ladder inspecting the roof.

With the help of a crane, the Minnesota team secures a section of its roof. The Icon House finally arrived today at mid-day today.

Solar Decathlon 2009

Daily Journal - October 2, 2009

Minnesota House Arrives and the Teams Forge Ahead

The Minnesota house has finally arrived! Earlier today, I was walking across Independence Avenue to give a briefing to our Under Secretary of Energy when I heard police sirens. Several police cars with flashing lights were headed my way, and someone on a loud speaker was telling all the cars to move aside. I thought President Obama or some other VIP was headed to the Capitol. But no—they were clearing the way for the Minnesota house!

An oversized truck with two sections of the house rumbled by with three police escorts clearing a path. Also in that convoy was a truck with the last roof section of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's house. This truck was delayed because it couldn't fit under a bridge. Thanks to the District police for the escorts—they certainly have our appreciation. With the arrival of these trucks, our Solar Decathlon family is complete.

Today is another day of intense activity here on the Mall. Most teams, if not all, have two sets of crew members working 12-hour shifts in an around-the-clock push to get their houses ready for the various inspections that began today. I'm impressed with the progress this early in the assembly phase. It's amazing to see the work that has been accomplished in just a day and a half. The teams seem to be ahead of past Solar Decathlon participants in getting organized and getting things done. With the addition of the gateway arches and event signage installed this morning, the solar village is really taking shape.

Some of the teams have gone to great lengths to "stage" their houses prior to the event, making assembly less daunting. Cornell, for example, had an interesting opportunity to debut its Silo House during the Great New York State Fair. This trial run gave them a chance to prepare for the competition well in advance of arrival here on the Mall. At the state fair, the team coordinated a ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking for Silo House and even received a visit from New York Governor David Paterson. This presented a great teaching moment for the team to educate fairgoers about sustainability and test out all the systems in the house before bringing it to D.C.

The Silo House was also designed for quick assembly. By 6 p.m. yesterday, it was more or less installed with its entrance ramp in place. Team Leader Bobby Harvey credits the team's organization and time-management skills to lessons learned from the 2007 Solar Decathlon. Today, the Cornell decathletes are working on a laundry list of tasks, including courtyard assembly, landscaping, interior details, and paint touch-ups. Installation of six solar thermal tubes for heating water is also under way.

Another team benefiting from past Solar Decathlon experience is Illinois. In 2007, the team designed a modular system for its house but found it was difficult to achieve airtightness. This time, it worked with a modular-home manufacturer on the design of a single-shell structure for a more efficient home that is easier to transport and set up.

Rice's ZEROW HOUSE is also in one solid piece. The team designed it this way to minimize construction work here on the Mall. Within hours, it had its house secured and could turn attention to interior setup, installation of decking panels, and attachment of the house's green wall, among other tasks.

The making of a Solar Decathlon village is fascinating to witness. We are all watching in wonder as the parts come together.