For the fourth time since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy will be hosting the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from October 9th-18th. The purpose of the Decathlon is two-fold: 20 universities from around the world compete to design and build the most sustainable solar-powered single-family home, while the public gets a chance to tour the complex of houses, catching a glimpse of what housing may look like in the future. The competition was founded as a means of helping solar-power technologies break into the mainstream market.
Two years before the competition begins, the student-founded teams begin to design their entry into the competition, then build it on site, and later transport it to the National Mall (some from as far away as Madrid, Puerto Rico, and Munich), where it will be judged in ten different fields, including architecture, lighting design, communications, hot water, comfort and market viability. While the competition is taking place, the public is encouraged to walk through the houses and better see what scientists, engineers, and designers are envisioning as the building norms of the future.
The number one reason that the competition has been made public is to show the greater population that it is possible to power every part of a home through wind and solar energy, as each house is built entirely off the grid. Building materials also play a huge role in the competition. Many entries from previous years relied heavily on recycled materials like shipping crates, as well as sustainable materials like bamboo to earn extra points from the judges. Passive heating and cooling measures, as well as solar water heaters, are staples in the design of most of the houses.
For more information about the houses, the universities involved, or the Solar Decathlon in general, visit the USDoE’s website.