Solar Decathlon 2011 - Ultimate Solar DIY Experience
The future solar home -- is here today!
I had the opportunity to visit the 2011 Solar Decathlon held in Washington, D.C. at the end of September. It was a beautiful day with crowds of people lined up to take an inside tour of every solar house.
I was awed by the talent and applied creativity of student teams from colleges and universities around the world.
Nineteen solar homes were constructed on The National Mall in Potomac Park -- each home planned, designed, engineered and operated by an interdisciplinary collegiate team.
Canada's tipi-inspired rounded-dome solar home
Take Team Canada for example. The University of Calgary's solar home was called the "Technological Residence, Traditional (TRTL)," because it combines today's techology with tradional culture.
The unusual round form of this home was inspired by the tipi of the Treaty 7 native Peoples in Southern Alberta.
It featured a highly efficient photovoltaic system engineered for harsh climates.
Canada's entry finished in 10th place with 836.423 points.
Solar Decathlon --The Ultimate Solar DIY Experience
The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a brilliant way to demonstrate that affordable homes can be built today that are energy efficient, contain energy-efficient appliances, use energy systems that are renewable -- and are affordable.
To be successful, teams of students from different academic disciplines must work together to produce an integrated total design.
Team members might call this the Ultimate Solar DIY Experience because they gain vital hands on experience. They are preparing themselves for renewable energy work in the 21st century. What a valuable experience!
Each solar home judged in 10 contests -- plus a Peoples Choice Award
There are ten contests that each team's entry is judged on -- just like in the Olympic decathlon where each athlete is competes in 10 athletic events.
Each team's entry receives a numerical score from 0 to 100 for each contest -- 1000 points total. Some contests are scored by a jury; others are measured. A winning team must score well in every contest:
- Architecture contest (juried)
- Market Appeal contest (juried)
- Engineering contest (juried)
- Communications contest (juried)
- Affordability contest (juried)
- Comfort Zone contest (measured)
- Hot Water contest (measured)
- Appliances contest (measured)
- Home Entertainment contest (measured and juried)
- Energy Balance contest (measured)
China's solar house uses recycled shipping containers
China's Tongji University's entry was a fascinating "Y"-shaped solar house. It combined six recycled shipping containers in an unusual design. The team effectively transformed prefabricated shipping containers into a modern living environment.
I noted some symbolism in their use of recycled shipping containers as China has become a leader in world trade -- shipping products in containers.
The Y-house featured vacuum insulation materials and phase-change materials to block heat transfer and moderate the interior temperature.
An integrated system for domestic hot water supply and floor heating uses heat recovery from a solar thermal collector.
Team China's entry finished in 15th place with 765.41 points. Strangely, it received 0 points for "energy balance" despite China's rapid move into solar energy.
And the winner is . . . Maryland's WaterShed
The 2011 winner was a team from Maryland. The University of Maryland's WaterShed -- inspired by The Chesapeake Bay, this house shows showcases how the building and site can help preserve watersheds through innovative water management.
Their total score of 951.151 was achieved by ranking first to fourth place in every one of the ten contest categories.
Solar Decathlon building code and rules
Each team's design must meet detailed Solar Decathlon building codes and rules. This puts all the teams on a level playing field. The rules govern exactly how and when the solar houses will be judged. Standards to protect the health and safety of both occupants and visitors are included in the codes and regulations.
Solar Decathlon provides full range of education resources
On my visit to the 201I saw long lines of students from many schools on field trips to the 2011 Solar Decathlon. I saw buses from public and private schools. There were students from colleges as well as secondary schools.
This is a once-every-two-year event. If you are a teacher within travel range of Washington, D.C., it provides a personal, up-close look at the future of solar homes and sustainable living.
The 2009 Solar Decathlon provided solar workshops for consumers and anyone interested in the future of solar energy, smart grids and energy efficiency. The 2011 Decathlon also offered consumer workshops which will most probably be posted on the web sometime soon.
Solar energy for home DIY
The Solar Decathlon might even encourage you to build your own solar panel as a DIY hobby project, or even to power appliances.