polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C.

by Anna Fogel

The solar house was designed by students from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid.

From October 9th through October 18th, the U.S. Department of Energy is hosting the Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. The competition has 20 teams of college and university students from around the world who design, build and operate energy-efficient solar-powered homes. The teams began the design process two years ago and the fully built homes are transported and completed in D.C. where they are displayed on the National Mall and are open to public tours. There are a number of strict guidelines – for example, the homes can be a maximum of 800 square meters, the homes must be kept between 72 degrees and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, and they must be zero-energy homes – that limit the contestants but also seem to inspire them to truly utilize and maximize the space and resources they are allotted. The teams of students who have designed and built the homes over the last two years man the homes for the public tours and, expressing their passion and expertise, describe details such as the origin of the exterior material or the radiant floor heating systems. The homes are all fully furnished with everything from dining room tables to televisions, and attention has been paid to their livability – tonight, there is an entertainment competition where two team members from each team go to watch a movie in another home to evaluate the homes’ capacity. The homes are intended to focus on energy efficiency but also are intended to be attractive and livable. The result is a creative, inspiring, and diverse array of homes and energy-efficient techniques.

You can tour the homes this week and weekend from 11 am - 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (except for Wednesday, October 14, when the homes are closed for the competition).

Credits: Photo from Kaye Evans-Lutterodt, Solar Decathlon.