20 Solar Decathlon Designs for 2011

The biennial Solar Decathlon is fast approaching as teams across the world prepare their solar-powered home for West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.  The competition is a showcase of modern, efficient homes from 20 teams held September 23 – October 2, 2011.  We’re going to start our coverage this year with a look at the models as displayed at IBS 2011 in Orlando a few months back.  Which do you want to see in real life?

Appalachian State University
The Solar Homestead — www.thesolarhomestead.com


Florida International University
perFORM[D]ance House — solardecathlon.fiu.edu


Middlebury College
Self-Reliance — solardecathlon.middlebury.edu


New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington
First Light — www.firstlighthouse.ac.nz


The Ohio State University
enCORE — solardecathlon.osu.edu


Parsons and Stevens Institute of Technology
Empowerhouse — parsit.parsons.edu


Purdue University
INhome — www.purdue.edu/inhome/


SCI-Arc/Caltech
CHIP — www.chip2011.com


Team Belgium: Ghent University
E-Cube — www.solardecathlon.ugent.be


Canada: University of Calgary
Technological Residence, Traditional Living (TRTL) — www.solardecathlon.ca


Team China: Tongji University
Y Container — solardecathlon.tongji.edu.cn


Team Florida (USF, FSU, UCF, and UF)
Flex House — www.flexhouse.org


Team Massachusett (MassArt, Umass Lowell)
4D Home — www.4dhome.us


Team New Jersey (Rutgers, NJIT)
ENJOY House — www.solarteamnewjersey.com


Team New York (The City College of New York)
Solar Roofpod — www.ccnysolardecathlon.com


Tidewater Virginia (ODU, Hampton U)
Unit 6 Unplugged — www.teamtidewaterva.org


University of Hawaii (withdrawn)
Hale Pilihonua — www.solar.hawaii.edu


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Re_home — www.solardecathlon.illinois.edu


University of Maryland
WaterShed — 2011.solarteam.org


The University of Tennessee
Living Light: UT Solar Decathlon House — www.livinglightutk.com


[+] View all 19 renderings for Solar Decathlon 2011.

Credits: All Commercial Photography/U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon. 


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  • MrSteve007

    The solar decathlon is always interesting, but I donno, it seems to now be either: 1. The same traditional box design, with solar panels on top. 2. A crazy, weird organic design, with solar panels on top.

    All they have to do is follow Passivehouse standards, throw in some extra tech bling and add a couple extra PV panels, and BAM, you have a solar decathlon home.I’d be far more impressed if they had to design and build these homes with a maximum budget of $100 a sq. ft, require them to adopt universal design principals, and be able to get the plans approved for construction by 5 major metropolitan design review boards.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      This is true.  That said, there is the market appeal component and a new affordability section this year.  Teams get up to a 100 points for a home that can be built for less than $250,000, but it’s still not quite along the lines of what you’re saying.  http://www.solardecathlon.gov/contest_affordability.html

    • http://www.facebook.com/Azlemed Demelza George-Franzmayr

      I totally agree with MrSteve. I visited the FirstLight house when it was set up in Wellington, NZ and it was very very cool but hugely overpriced. The price is a huge turn off for the average person. It’s sending the signal that solar houses are totally unaffordable. The problem is with the very strict requirements of the competition which basically require the contestants to over-engineer everything and leads to very expensive houses. If the houses were designed for very high efficiency and more lenient rules, they could use a quarter of the solar panels/ energy, be much cheaper and thus more appealing to normal people. It’s a great lost opportunity. They should challenge the teams to come up with designs that cost $100000 or less. Then we’d see some relevant innovation instead of pie in the sky.

      • Luap

        Over engineered? What? Remember what happened in Christchurch? Better over engineered than under. What value do you put on human life?

        And, speaking as a Kiwi too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Daniels/100000402160799 Kevin Daniels

    $250.000 is not affordable to most people. I really like the homes, however to sell them you need to lower the price, I was looking at the 4D Home it it cost $500,000 to build ??? That’s not affordable at all !!

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      The number might be this high because they’re using so much solar.  

      That said, in 2010, roughly 42% of all new, single-family home sales were priced above $249,999, according to information available through Census.gov.  Census data will probably include a land purchase in the number, whereas the SD2011 will be value of the build not factoring land, but this seems like a decent chunk of the US population.  Maybe $250,000 isn’t necessarily a bad starting point for next-gen, showcase housing. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Daniels/100000402160799 Kevin Daniels

        That’s true, new technology cost a lot at first and then it starts to come down. I would love to see these homes built, however with the foreclosures and the declining economy. I don’t think they will be built soon. I really like the home from Middlebury College. Incorporating growing your own food in the design is a great idea !

        • David

          In addition to using more solar than a standard home would need (just in case it’s cloudy those few days during competition), many of the homes have features or design aspects that are used because the homes are transportable exhibit homes. This will definitely add costs to the appraised value. For instance, Appalachian State’s entry is built into super-sturdy trailer frames to allow for it to be driven 1,000 miles and for extremely quick setup on the Mall. These trailers add significant cost to a home that would not need these features if it was being built in a permanent location. 
          And it’s important to think of long-term costs, as these homes should have no energy bills for the lifetime of the home. Finally, many of the renewable and energy-efficient technologies used have state or federal rebates that could reduce the end costs to the buyer through tax-rebates. And agreed about gardening space — it is such an important and great way to have a healthy, local diet!

      • LenMinNJ

        For roughly 800 square feet of living space, $250,000 is too much.  That’s over $300 per square foot.

        They should be designing for a build cost target of around $150 per square foot.

        • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

          Seems like cost per square foot would be a poor measure of affordability with smaller homes because you can’t amortize the cost of the systems over empty square footage.  For example, increase the size to 1,667 and you’re at $150 per square foot. 

  • Domagconstruction

    We totally like the idea of the Solar Panel houses. If they
    would follow the Passive House standards you creating a net Zero Energy home,
    which is gorgeous. A Passive House is not contrary to the general opinion just
    a airtight building. A Passive House requires more design and knowledge. Within
    the current market we are talking about 25% more costs for a Passive House.
    Compare this to your long run bill and to your re sell value of your property.
    Solar Energy will be more affordable within the next 10years as normal
    “utility provided energy”. Believe it or not  Passive House Solar
    Energy, Wind Energy, Geothermal or Fermentation Gas are the future.

  • Mark

    I disagree with MrSteve – the idea behind the solar decathlon is innovation. Conforming to strict budget, plan approval, etc. do not produce an environment that harbors experimentation and innovation.

    The new materials being developed, experiments in form or construction and the application of technologies from fields outside of architecture are what makes a project interesting. This is not a Boy Scout pine wood derby race where everyone knows to make the heaviest, thinnest car allowable. There is room for something other than a black solar box for everyone to imitate. I hope one of the projects that did take a risk to try something unproven comes out on top.

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