The Solar Decathlon challenged 20 teams around the world design and build the most attractive and energy efficient solar-powered home.
The homes had to be carbon neutral, without sacrificing comfort, convenience, and aesthetics. Each house had to produce ‘extra’ energy to power a vehicle.
The teams spent 2 years designing and building their homes.
The results are in.
Fifth Place: Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Web site: http://www.solardecathlon.upm.es/
Although this Universidad is from Madrid, many members are not Spanish. "The points of view from so many countries brought out the best in everyone and inspired everyone to work harder," says Maria Perez, an architecture student.
The team used light construction materials, a double envelope, and phase-change gels in the foundation to regulate temperatures.
Besides that, the home uses electrochromic windows; with a flip of a switch, the glass darkens or clears to block or let sunlight in.
Fourth place: Penn State
Web site: http://solar.psu.edu
"We want to be outstanding representatives for the Penn State community by using the Solar Decathlon as a catalyst to reach our long-term goals," says member Gretchen Miller.
An "Energy Dashboard" monitors and displays energy consumption and production to teach the inhabitants about how they are "spending" their energy. A curtain wall system with PV-powered LED lighting glows in different colors depending on weather forecasts. Pennsylvania bluestone and reclaimed slate shingles provide thermal mass.
Third Place: Santa Clara University
Team Web site: www.scusolar.org
"Our house is dynamically smart. Its computers sense interior and exterior conditions and make automatic adjustments for thermal comfort and efficient energy usage," said Team Manager James Bickford.
The home uses electrochromic windows (see 5th place).
Possibly even more innovative was the insulation; it was made of recycled jeans.
The estimated final cost was $800,000.
Second Place: University of Maryland
Web site: www.solarteam.org
University of Maryland students drew inspiration from leaves. "We see the leaf as nature's most efficient organism," says Brittany Williams, student and one of the leaders of the architectural team.
The team members are especially proud of their smart-house system called SHAC (Smart House Adaptive Control). Two students built a system of sensors to ‘bring the comfort level of the home to the ideal.’ The system monitors humidity, temperature, light, and whether the doors are open or closed-it's a Web-enabled system that can even factor in weather forecasts.
But the most innovative mechanism of the Maryland house is the indoor waterfall. The waterfall is a liquid desiccant wall system that's used to control humidity. The idea has never been used before, the team believes.
First Place: Technische Universität Darmstadt
Web site: http://www.solardecathlon.de/
Nicknamed "Made in Germany", "Made in Germany" was, well, made in Germany at the Technische Universitat Darmstadt.
Really, I couldn’t find anything especially special about this house. It was just all around best built. It incorporated techniques similar to those used in other houses, but there was one concept that boosted this house above the others.
After the Solar Decathlon, the house will return to Germany to be used as a solar power plant