Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology tied with Purdue University's INhome to win the Affordability Contest at the 2011 Solar Decathlon by building Empowerhouse for less than $230,000. | Courtesy of <a href="">Empowerhouse.</a&gt;

The first-ever Affordability Contest at the 2011 Solar Decathlon concluded yesterday with two teams tied for first place, demonstrating that innovative technology doesn’t have to be expensive.

The two teams – Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology and Purdue University – built their homes for less than $250,000 each, which includes materials, labor and construction equipment as evaluated by a professional cost estimator. Parsons New School and Stevens’ Empowerhouse cost less than $230,000, and Purdue’s INhome cost just under the $250,000 cap. Winners were announced Tuesday at a ceremony in the solar village.

On the sliding point scale used to score the teams, the winners each earned 100 points. Houses estimated to cost between $250,000 and $600,000 were awarded points proportional to their price. Houses that according to the estimate cost more than $600,000 received zero points. All teams received points in the affordability contest. 

The Affordability Contest replaced the Lighting Design Contest this year, which is now evaluated as part of other contests. Event communications manager Carol Anna reports that compared to Solar Decathlon 2009 houses, the Solar Decathlon 2011 houses are estimated to cost 33 percent less.

“These 2011 teams have shown that solar houses can be affordable while still being innovative,” said Matt Hansen, Affordability Contest juror as reported in a Solar Decathlon blog post.

Team Belgium (Ghent University) received second place in the contest with its E-Cube priced at $251,147. The third place team, The Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology, built CHIP – a home estimated to cost $262,495.