The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB
Students from across the globe were on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23-Oct. 2 for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a biennial competition showcasing the latest innovations in solar power, energy-efficiency and green design.
Initiated in 2002, the award-winning program challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.
Nineteen teams competed in this year’s challenge.
Students spent nearly two years designing and building their homes for the competition, but had just one week to construct the homes on site.
The teams were able to do this by using building systems — utilizing concrete, log, modular and panelized components and techniques.
(For a related story in this issue of Nation’s Building News on the building systems aspect of the homes, click here.)
Though the homes all employed different construction methods, they had one important feature in common — they were produced in a controlled manufacturing environment.
NAHB was again a sponsor of the 2011 Solar Decathlon.
In January, NAHB provided student teams with the opportunity to attend the 2011 NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando, where they unveiled models of their homes and showcased their accomplishments.
NAHB will also provide students at the top three winning colleges with free NAHB Student Chapters memberships through the Home Builders Institute (HBI), NAHB’s workforce development arm.
“It was really great to have seen the early stages of the projects on display in model form at the Builders’ Show, and now see the teams’ hard work come to life here on the National Mall,” said Chip Dence, chairman of NAHB’s Energy Subcommittee and a home builder from Victoria, Texas.
“The students should be commended for their outstanding work on these homes, and for promoting the importance of energy efficiency,” he said.
Among the ground-breaking design and cutting edge-products featured in the homes:
- The University of Maryland’s WaterShed home included a humidity-controlling liquid desiccant waterfall.
- The Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology’s submission, CHIP, was designed with a vinyl-coated fabric mesh that protects and insulates the house from the outside.
- The New Zealand team’s home, First Light, featured a drying cupboard that dries clothes quickly by pumping solar-heated hot water through a heat exchanger.
- Purdue University’s INhome featured an interior Bio-Wall with plants.
- Appalachian State University’s entry, the Solar Homestead, had bi-facial solar panels to supply solar energy.
- Ohio State University’s enCORE included a user-friendly touch screen control interface for lighting, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
“The homes on display this year featured some really innovative designs and impressive green technologies,” said Don Ferrier, president of Ferrier Homes, Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas.
“While some of these may be replicated in the broader marketplace, others are designed more as a product showcase and would not be feasible in most homes,” he said.
“To build a truly green home, you need to incorporate green building practices into the entire design and building process.”
The winning team this year, announced on Oct. 1, was the University of Maryland.
Student teams were judged on 10 criteria to gauge how well the houses performed and how livable and affordable they were.
The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.