Ever wonder what it takes to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon? Over the next couple of weeks, we’re exploring how the Solar Decathlon 2013 teams’ energy-efficient, solar-powered houses went from idea to reality, and documenting some of the steps along the way in this two-year competition. Follow the series by visiting energy.gov/solar-decathlon and see if you have what it takes to be a solar decathlete.
On October 14, after two years of hard work and 10 grueling contests, the Solar Decathlon teams will begin disassembling and packing up their demonstration houses. But then what happens to these energy-efficient, solar-powered houses after the competition?
While some Solar Decathlon houses are sold to recover competition costs or raise money for future teams, most houses are used for research by the teams’ universities or to educate the general public about sustainable living. And this year is no different. From public exhibits and private homes to university student housing and research laboratories, the houses from this year’s event will live long after the competition is over.
Norwich University’s House: Ohio Bound
Following in the footsteps of two influential American designers, Charles and Ray Eames, students from Norwich University worked to build "the best, for the most, for the least" with their Delta T-90 House. Using this mantra, the team created a house that is affordable for Vermont families while standing up to New England’s harsh winters and high energy costs. Earlier this spring, the team began collaborating with a Vermont homebuilder to offer a local version of their house, and after the competition, the team will continue to work on making their home commercially available. Following the competition, the Delta T-90 House will make its way to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House in Springfield, Ohio, where it will take on new life as the “Westcott Experiential Design Lab.” The house will be used for professional development workshops, youth programs and special demonstrations to promote green living and clean energy technologies, and Norwich University will stay engaged in the project by conducting long-term environmental analysis and energy usage monitoring.
Missouri S&T Builds Their Own Solar Village
As a five-time competitor, Missouri University of Science and Technology students have built on past experience to create an adaptable and efficient house called the Chameleon House. At the heart of the house is the Chameleon Home Automation System -- a student-designed control system that was originally created for the Missouri S&T Solar Decathlon 2009 entry and has been improved for this year’s competition. Throughout the competition, the team looked to build a house that everyone working on the project would enjoy living in, and for those who aren’t graduating this year, that could be a real possibility. The Chameleon House will join the school’s past competition houses in Missouri S&T’s very own Solar Village, which serves as student housing and university research facilities. The Solar Village on campus is also a great public outreach tool for the team. From CEOs of large companies to school children, the local community can tour the houses and learn about sustainable design.
Team Austria Takes Their House to the Alps
Since its imperial times, Austria has been a vacation destination with its picturesque mountain peaks and alpine lake resorts. Today, tourism plays a significant role in the Austrian economy, with the vacation home market currently showing the largest growth factor. As Team Austria, students from the Vienna University of Technology created LISI -- a simple, smart and sustainable house that can be marketed as a vacation chalet. The team used high-quality wood materials -- a much sought after feature in Austrian vacation retreats -- and large glass facades to bring the outdoors inside. After the competition, Team Austria has been invited to display their house at Austria’s biggest model home exhibition site, where about 100 manufacturers present their prefabricated house designs. The goal is to attract potential buyers to help transform Austria’s vacation housing stock into energy-efficient design.
Check out our Solar Decathlon series -- a behind-the-scenes look at how teams prepare for the competition -- on energy.gov/solar-decathlon.