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Solar Decathlon 2011 winners announced

Saturday October 1, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the winning collegiate teams of the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011.

The DOE challenges teams of college students from around the world to build solar-powered houses that are not only energy-efficient, but also cost-effective and aesthetically appealing.

During the event, held at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.,  from September 23 until October 2, members of the public were able to tour the houses free of charge.

“The houses on display blend affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “These talented students are demonstrating to consumers the wide range of energy-saving solutions that are available today to save them money on their energy bills.”

Photo Credit: Solar Tribune

This year’s is the fifth Solar Decathlon, with the first back in 2002. To date, 92 collegiate teams, totalling 15,000 students, have participated. The event also includes workshops for those in the green building industry.

The Solar Decathlon not only provides the student participants a unique opportunity that trains them for the clean-energy workforce, but also gives the public a chance to see energy efficient design in practice.

The teams, who work for almost two years to design and build the houses, are judged in the following ten categories: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Energy Balance.

Winning Designs

The top three teams all developed “net-zero” homes that produce at least as much energy as they expend. However, each home had unique features described below.

This year’s winner was the WaterShed from the University of Maryland. Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the WaterShed aims to use water, as well as electricity, efficiently. The house is designed to efficiently collect storm water runoff, conserve water and recycle greywater from the shower, clothes washer and dishwasher.

The WaterShed is split into two parts, to contrast between the public and private realms; it is intended for a couple to use both as a home and office space, allowing for reductions in travel expenses by telecommuting.

Coming in second was the INhome, short for ‘Indiana home’, from Purdue University. The house, designed for a typical Midwestern couple, is an innovative but realistic example of ultra-efficient living. The INhome’s most unique feature is a self-watering biowall that filters the air entering the HVAC system. And aside from the 9 kW solar PV array, the INhome also uses of passive designs to reduce heating, cooling and lighting demands.

First Light, the home from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, won third place. The home is a modern update on a “Kiwi bach,” the traditional New Zealand holiday home. Named for the fact that New Zealand is the first place to receive morning light, First Light focuses on “Kiwi values: a strong connection with the landscape, a hands-on ‘do it yourself’ mentality and socializing outdoors.”

The home employs 28 polycrystalline PV panels and 40 evacuated tube solar collectors for energy and hot water needs. First Light also has an extensive deck, with greenery reflecting the coast, shrub lands, forests and alpine landscapes in New Zealand, fusing the natural environment with the man-made.

These homes will now return to Maryland, Indiana and New Zealand respectively, where they will be private residences.


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