contributed by Sheree Schold [owner, Haberdash Designs / avid traveler / ID journalism dabbler]
After sweating and stressing and straining their brains for the last two years, 20 university and college teams squared off for this year’s Solar Decathlon. Not only did they contemplate, plan, and scrutinize every last detail, but each team actually had to construct and operate its design for a solar-powered, energy-efficient, aesthetically pleasing, free-standing house. Their smart, solar prototypes competed directly on the National Mall in Washington, DC, hooking into the local utility grid, which allowed public tours and evaluations of each home’s performance. Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE] announced that Team Germany had proved victorious for the second competition in a row, scoring 908.29 out of a possible 1,000 points. As with athletic and other academic decathlons, 10 categories comprise the total competition. The following is the complete competition list with their respective winners.
Appliances: The University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign won this by keeping a refrigerator and freezer cold, washing 10 loads of laundry, and using the dishwasher five times during the competition week, all on electricity generated from the sun.
Architecture: Santa Clara University, partnering with California College of the Arts, won with 98 out of a possible 100 points. They were judged on architectural elements, holistic design, and inspiration, while integrating solar and energy efficiency. Their construction drawings, as well as the completed house, were evaluated by the jurors.
Comfort Zone: Team Germany showed the best ability to maintain steady, uniform indoor environmental conditions. Their indoor temperature was steady between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity between 40 and 55 percent.
Communications: Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts proved best at communicating the technical aspects of their design, as well as their experiences, to a wide range of audiences via multiple venues. They were judged on their website, their communication plans, and their National Mall exhibits.
Engineering: The University of Minnesota won 96 out of 100 points when experts took a look “under the hood,” evaluating for functionality, efficiency, innovation, and reliability.
Home Entertainment: The University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign picked up 92.62 points out of 100 by proving their entry could indeed be a home. They ran interior and exterior lights, a computer, and a television, and they used a kitchen appliance to boil water utilizing solar generated electricity. They also had to host two dinner parties and a movie night in their smart solar home during the competition week.
Hot Water: The University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign earned the coveted 100 possible points by delivering 15 gallons of solar heated hot water showers on several daily tests.
Lighting Design: The University of Minnesota reaped 72 out of 75 possible points with functional, energy-efficient, and aesthetically pleasing lighting systems. The lighting design was innovative, user friendly, and flexible.
Market Viability: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s entry proved to be a feasible, reliable, cost effective, and a marketable constructed home sporting innovative solar technology.
Net Metering: Team Germany took the total Decathlon Win with a perfect 150 points in this category. At the end of the competition week they scored 100 points when their two-way electric metered showed a negative number. They gained an extra 50 points by making more electricity than they used, thereby providing the city of Washington, DC, energy at the end of the week.
“The Future’s So Bright…”
Is this competition important to interior designers” You betcha!
I was lucky enough to visit the National Mall during competition week and can tell you firsthand that these houses generated more than actual energy – they generated palpable excitement. All building and technology professionals need to work together for our greener more sustainable future, and this certainly includes interior designers.
What I heard most often in the huge crowd on the Mall was, “I expected the interior to feel small.” I heard many versions of “It felt so spacious;” “I love the windows;” “It looks so modern;” “It seems so comfortable”…. All comments interior designers love to hear and love to make happen!
If there are any teams out there working toward the next Solar Decathlon in 2011, I suggest walking through the sculpture garden adjoining the National Mall, spending some time in the museums, and visiting well-known and award-winning architecture – both old and new. In other words, try kicking the visual components – i.e., the aesthetic that we see and feel when we walk up to and into your entry point – up a few notches.
You can learn more about the U.S. DOE’s Solar Decathlon, find the complete list of 2009 competing teams (including team websites), and see photos and videos of the entries’ interiors and exteriors at the event’s official website, solardecathlon.org.