In honor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon -- which challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive -- we are profiling each of the 20 teams participating in the competition.

New York City’s famously dense urban landscape presents a challenge to developers hunting for a bit of unoccupied space to build on. Team New York believes it’s identified the most underutilized real estate in the entire city -- flat rooftops, where space and access to sunlight are plentiful.

More specifically, the Solar Decathlon team, composed of architecture and engineering students from The City College of New York, has designed a house for rooftops of mid-rise buildings -- both residential and commercial. The students envision their house, dubbed the Solar Roofpod, as a prototype that can be replicated in densely populated areas around the country.

A Solar Trellis -- equipped with both a solar array and solar thermal collectors that will distribute the sun’s heat through a radiant floor system -- acts as the primary power source for the house.

For quick assembly, the building envelope is constructed of 64 heavily insulated building blocks, mass-produced in prefabrication facilities. The prefabricated assembly helps keep costs down and allows for easy transportation -- via a building roof, staircase, or elevator. Additional elements such as occupancy sensors, energy-efficient lighting, andanenergy-efficient HVAC system reduce overall energy consumption.

Students envision two future scenarios for their prototype house post-competition -- either as a visitor center and classroom for sustainability education or as part of the school’s planned environmental science center on Pier 26 in Tribeca along the Hudson River.

The Solar Decathlon competition will take place at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23 - Oct. 2, 2011. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today.