Congratulations to University of Maryland’s Watershed Team! They won the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.
The Solar Decathlon is a competition in which 20 collegiate teams from around the world compete to build the most livable, attractive and functional solar-powered single family home. The teams bring their homes to DC, in a contest sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Most of the teams have produced cool videos that show off why they think they should win, and have posted them to PlanetForward.org.
Team Belgium designed a do-it-yourself house that is easily to build and modify. The team set out to create a home that anyone can assemble without the help of engineers or professional home builders. Because their cubic home is constructed using wood and glass panels, it’s easy to change the position of your windows in order to alter the amount of light that’s let into your home. Team Belgium’s home is the only two-story home in the competition.
The TRTL house utilizes east-facing windows and solar panels connected to a series of micro-inverters that maximizes the efficiency of each individual panel. The home’s walls are made of structurally insulated panels (SIPs), high performance building panels which resist fire and mold. The air source heat pump moves thermal energy, which they claim is more effective than converting electrical energy directly to heat.
Florida International University’s house features retractable louver panels that shade the team’s home, reducing the demand for cooling and protecting it from South Florida’s hurricane-force winds. Their open floor plan and multiple openings results in cross-ventilation that further reduces the need for active systems. After the competition is over, this house will become FIU’s new Office of Sustainability.
The CHIP (Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype) house has one of the more unique exterior designs in the competition. The team installed the insulation on the exterior of the home, and wrapped it in a flexible vinyl membrane. Their two large windows allow sunlight and air to flow through the house. The lower window lets cool air in, while the higher window is designed to let warmer air escape.
The ENJOY house features an HVAC system that uses a reverse cycle chiller, which is a heat pump that can increase or decrease the temperature of water. The water flows through the hydronic floor in order to heat or cool the home. Their systems are all controlled by their Control 4 system, which can be accessed from any Apple or flash-based web device.
The Solar Homestead team from Appalachian State University uses phase-change materials that melt when the temperature rises, in order to cut down on the size of their design. Their “solar thermal skylight” is an innovative device allows light to enter while helping to run the home.
The enCORE team from The Ohio State University is truly built for four season. They are using unique thin-film photovoltaics that cost 70% less than standard solar panels that are manufactured in their home state of Ohio. Their house has half of the heating and cooling load of normal home of this size, can be run by smart phones or the touch screen that is located in the home.
Middlebury focused on a tight thermal envelope and built their Self-Reliance prairie home on an east-west axis. Their triple pane windows bring in more heat than they lose throughout the year. The HVAC system has a heat exchanger that allows them to only draw the power they need and avoid wasting their precious power. Condensation from air unit is collected and can be used to water plants.
Purdue’s INhome Team has developed a practical, Midwestern home that won’t intimidate people who aren’t familiar with solar technology. Their innovative “bio wall” is a vertical plant wall that filters the air for their home.
Old Dominion University and Hampton University teamed up for Team Tidewater to create a house that mirrors the architecture style in Norfolk, Virginia. A small circulation corridor divides the service and work sections of the house, as well as motorized windows and a rain screen made of plywood panels and vertical battens.
The students from Maryland WaterShed focused on the vital ecosystem that surrounds them: the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They utilized a water capture system that allows them to water their plants with recycled rainwater.
Team Florida designed their house to stay cool in the hot, humid Florida climate that they live in. They use a hybrid open and closed design to encourage an outdoor lifestyle. The team is based at the University of South Florida.
The Living Light team was inspired by Tennessee’s distinct climate that led the original inhabitants of Tennessee of to build both winter and summer homes. They used this model to build a home that is very environmentally responsive by having a tight building envelope, a strong HVAC air circulation system, and a built-in sensoring system.
Team Empowerhouse turned their project into a vision for affordable housing. They teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to create a real home for a family selected by Habitat that will save money on energy costs. This team is made up of students from Parsons The New School for Design, Milano School for International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
The team from City College of New York was inspired by the Manhattan skyline to present an innovative way to increase urban density. Their roof pod reduces the temperature of the entire building and can distribute excess energy to the rest of the building as well. They also implemented advanced, customizable glazing technology on its windows.
The First Light team, from Victoria University, is the first team to see the sun each morning. The house can transform to change the amount of light and outdoor air let in throughout the day, and builds on the environment outside to create a comfortable living environment.
The team from Hawai’i (who unfortunately could not travel to Washington for the competition this year) uses a minimalistic approach to embrace microarchitecture. The open air gap in the shell and an open western wall allows air to circulate through the home. Thin film solar panels and a solar thermal system give the home enough energy to function.
Team China used a creative “Y-Container” structure composed of three shipping containers to build a low cost, high efficiency home. They say that the “Y-Container contains the future.” They also have a patio that can capture water for domestic purposes. The team comes from Tongji University in Shanghai.