NEWS: Solar Decathlon Starting Today

Dispatch from SSC Intern Lila Holzman

Decathlons are no longer only for athletes according to the U.S. Department of Energy who will be hosting its fourth Solar Decathlon competition beginning today, October 9.  Student teams from 20 colleges spent well over a year putting their engineering, architectural, and creative skills to the test in order to design a home that maximizes energy production and efficiency without sacrificing modern conveniences.   

After building the homes at each individual college location, they are transported to the National Mall for judging and public viewing.  The houses are tested in categories like how well they incorporate solar energy features for water-heating and powering appliances, marketability, comfort and home entertainment, etc.  While only one team wins, all student participants learn the benefits of renewable energy and green building technologies. 

Solar Decathlon also aims to educate the public.  The student designers:

“will demonstrate that we can live our modern lifestyle—where we work hard, move fast, demand convenience and comfort—while using less energy.  And they will show that the time for solar energy and energy efficiency is now!” 

The zero energy houses are open for public visits Oct. 9-13 and 15-18, with periodic closures due to judging.  Various educational exhibits and consumer workshops on solar energy and energy efficiency will be offered throughout the week.  For a complete schedule of events, check out the Solar Decathlon website

What happens to the homes after the competition?  This will depend on the college.  Rice University, for example, plans to install their ‘Zerow House’ in Houston’s historic Third Ward as part of the Row House Community Development Corporation’s plan to provide creative community housing for low to moderate income households. 

Thanks to such innovative students and the competition that motivated them, these eco-friendly designs are destined to become the homes of the future.