The Solar Decathlon Winner – #SD2011

After all the scores have been gathered and added, the Department of Energy today announced that the overall winner of Solar Decathlon 2011 is Maryland for WaterShed.  Team Purdue finished in second place with INhome, and Team New Zealand finished in third place with First Light.

Solar Decathlon Director Richard King said, “Maryland’s Watershed is a beautiful house, judged first place in Architecture, which also performed impeccably in measured contests. This team mastered their strategies to ensure they excelled in all 10 contests,” according to the DOE. 

Maryland’s WaterShed was consistently in the lead throughout the competition and was particularly popular among the locals and most visitors to the Solar Decathlon. 

WaterShed features include a solar thermal wall, green roof, a garden, and edible wall system, together with a modular constructed wetland that helps filter and recycle greywater from the shower, clothes washer, and dishwasher.  Inside, WaterShed had two liquid desiccant waterfall systems for humidity control and a home automation system.

[+] More info about the Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C.

Credit: Jim Tetro/U.S. DOE.

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  • Daniela

    I could definitely see myself living in this house. What happens to these after the competition? 😉

    • rob

      It depends on the school. Some are used on their campus as offices or housing. Others are sold or donated to habitat for humanity. You can check the decathlon website: and click on the where are they now?

    • amo

      You can’t live in these things.  I have been to the event for the past few times it has been held.  They are all too small for an average couple to live in as a permanent home.  Look at the kitchens, I would be lucky if I got half of my stuff stored in the cabinets where am I going to put the other half of my kitchen stuff?  In the non-existent storage closets?  What about all my other stuff I need to store?  I don’t have a lot of stuff cause I am just out of college.

      I went to school for architecture so I appreciate what they do, but if the DOE wants these homes to be more feasible, they need to make the houses a min of 1,000 S.F. and a max of 1,800-2,000 S.F. then they will be more to the size of a house people can relate too.  I am sorry but we can’t live in a house that is the size they keep bringing.  Look at most living rooms in these places too, they are right in the kitchen and most have no where to even put a TV.

      These are nice houses but just way to small for a couple to live in, just cant do it.  If you never use a kitchen and only order out then these are fine.  But spending this much on a tiny house and eating out all the time is a bit contradictory.

      • Preston

        The homes were much bigger this year up to about 1,000 square feet.  I understand what you’re saying, but I found many regular people on the grounds feeling they could actually live in these places.  Many had two bedrooms.  The kitchens were appropriately sized and the homes were ready for up to four, if not more.  Lots of storage in many of these homes. 

        • slarti

          Increasing the minimum square footage to 1500 sf because that is more “normal” is a pretty illogical thought. We need to keep in mind that these projects are prototypes designed and largely built by students to exhibit systems and concepts. Keeping them small only makes sense within the logistics of the competition. The same vocabulary of materials could always be enlarged to a more comfortable square footage for larger families (with more stuff). My reaction this morning WAS as an architect who has designed many private homes, multi family, retirement communities, etc. I recall in particular a semi-retired empty nester couple who came into our office seeking a second home near Austin, TX in a golf community. They started the conversation with “we want something simple” and then laid out a list of bare minimal requirements that included a master suite w/ fireplace, a guest suite w/ fireplace, 3 bedrooms with private baths for their grown kids and grandkids, a game room w/ fireplace, a craft room, an office, a wine cellar, a country kitchen w/ dining for the whole bunch (and a fireplace / pizza oven), a formal dining room w/ fireplace, a great room w/ fireplace, porches w/ TVs and fireplaces…. It was almost comical but a little sad. They obviously were in a strata of client that aren’t representative of the average person but at the same time are a reflection of what we as a society have come to expect as the ultimate American dream. 

      • slarti

        No offense, but I find your comments sadly reflective of our society today. We just built our own dream house from the ground up and it is “only” 900 or so enclosed square feet. It is a very comfortable 2 bedroom, 1 bath with an open living / kitchen area. We’ve been married for 30+ years, raised several children and still have a teenager at home. This is our 6th or 7th home and we made a very conscious decision to live small.  Granted, we live in the country and have a couple of vintage campers we also consider living space for a guest room and home office. We also have a small storage shed where we keep our “stuff” that wouldn’t fit in the new house. A screened porch and large deck are also seasonal additional living space. Too many folks pay taxes for and air condition wasted space for formal living rooms, dining rooms, 3 car garages, a 3rd or 4th guest bedroom, walk-in closets, an extra bath, utility rooms, home offices, game rooms, “bonus” rooms, etc. etc. that are rarely or never used. Flexible spaces with multiple uses are key to small living. Most of all we are not crippled with our “stuff” dictating how big our living space is. After years of collecting “stuff” and living in much larger homes it is incredibly liberating to streamline, refine, and get rid of material possessions to live minimally. Quality over quantity. Less is more. Lots more people should try it. 

        • Josh Wynne

          amo and slarti- I hear you both and think you are both correct. I do think that Solar Decathlon did better to increase the homes from an average 620 sqft to these larger 900-1000 sqft models. While some people can and will live in homes this size, most cannot fathom downsizing from their current 3000 sqft homes to something less than 1000. I agree with amo that the fed would do better to encourage a minimum 1500 sqft model with 2/2 + a flex space. This is a better real world challenge than the current $250k max build price. Honestly, it is not terribly difficult to design and execute a home that far exceeds this winning home for the cost per square foot spent on this one even when profit is considered (and it is clearly not on these homes). How do I know? I did it. Look for my Power Haus project at GreenBuild this week. It was cheaper than Maryland’s house. I am building one for $100/sqft that is 1260 sqft and is zero-energy with grey water recycling and rain water harvesting. Oh yeah, I’ll make a little money too.

        • amo

          Josh some reason it will not let me reply to your statement so I will make it here.
          Yes them changing to the larger size is a great thing, they doubled it.  This is great cause no body can live in a 600 s.f. house.  Lets face it the majority of people live outside of NYC and don’t live in a 100 s.f. closet.  Even a single person needs more space than that, unless you have 5 outfits and dont cook or have a life inside your residence.

          I live right now in a 1000 s.f. apartment with my wife, we have things everywhere in the 2 bedrooms, closets are too small for our clothes and we have most in a dresser.  No storage, decent size bedrooms, a 1.5 baths, also a kitchen that is cramped, the only good thing is the living room is the right size.  Its laid out great for the size, if we lost the small open dining space and had it added to the kitch it would be better but where would we eat?  At the bar, what happens when we have people over tell them they have to eat on the sofa because we dont have room.

          You design the home how you need it.  For the majority of people they need bigger houses because thats what fits the lifestyle not the other way around.  Then theres the very small minority that can live in these types of places.  Thats fine if you can do that thats your lifestyle or you trying to make a lifestyle work.  An average family needs more space than 1600 s.f. a couple might need less but you are only talking about the size of a bedroom and maybe a bathroom, depending on layout.  So that might put you down to 1400 and change taking into account a normal 11’x11′ childs bedroom and a 5’x10′ bathroom (1 kid, if 2 kids 1300 s.f.)

          I like cooking so a kitchen is my big 1st must have in a house if its tiny it will not work, 2nd is the living space (enclosed and heated) and if it has a deck or porch than great especially if a wall opens up, 3rd is closet space and storage.  Bathrooms and bedrooms just need to be the typical size, you sleep/read and do your business thats their functions.  The other are the living spaces where the size matters.

          Funny cause my favorite house there was the Appilacian state which had the bedrooms and living space fliped as for size goes.  Appearance was dead on though.  New Jersey’s was I think the best laid out for room sizes and flow.

          These are my feelings as an architect and as living in many different apartments and going and seeing many many different homes that people live in and some people can not.  If you don’t like it fine, but don’t try and make people fit your lifestyle because its yours.  Everybody is different and so are the lifestyles.  We do not live in a small over populated country like many others do, we are spread out and so is the way we live.

          Sorry Josh not everything is toward your comments, I was reading others and wanted to share more of my view on the subject.

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