U.S. Department of Energy - Solar Decathlon

2013 Winning Solar Designs
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The Solar Decathlon 2013 teams
The Solar Decathlon 2013 teams join together before the start of the competition at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.
AIR House from the Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
Large sliding glass doors bring ample natural light into the AIR House’s interior.
AIR House from the Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
The AIR House’s simple geometric design helped earn its win in the architecture competition.
Students from Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
Students from Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University celebrate their first-place win in the architecture category.
The Ecohabit house
The Ecohabit house, which featured a lush living wall of plants, came in second in the architecture competition.
UNLV’s DesertSol house
UNLV’s DesertSol house took first place for market appeal.
South-facing PV awning
The south-facing PV awning also helps shade the doors and windows from the summer sun.
Students from UNLV
Students from UNLV celebrate their victory in the market appeal category with their DesertSol house.
Team Capitol DC's Harvest Home
Team Capitol DC specified war veterans as the intended market for their Harvest Home— a habitat for “renewal and regeneration.”
The ECHO house
The ECHO house’s innovative use of an integrated mechanical system for space heating, cooling, and water heating helped it earn first place in the engineering contest.
Motorized shades function automatically
Computer-controlled motorized shades function automatically to control solar gain through the south-facing windows of the ECHO house.
Team Ontario
Team Ontario gathers to claim their first-place win in the engineering category.
UrbanEden students at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte
The precast concrete walls of UrbanEden, designed by students at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, contain capillary tubes plumbed to roof-mounted flat-plate heat exchangers to allow heat transfer for heating and cooling.
Walter Kohn
Walter Kohn, center, recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1998, takes a guided tour of Team Austria’s house with students Philipp Klebert, left, and Claus Andreas Schnetzer, right.
Raymond Neutra
Raymond Neutra, son of an Austrian–American modern architect, signs the guest book during a tour of the Team Austria house.
Jakob Doppler and Volker Loeser
Jakob Doppler, left, explains details of the Team Austria house to Volker Loeser.
Team Austria house
Visitors line up to tour the Team Austria house.
Norwich University wins in the affordability contest.
Coming in well under the allocated construction budget earned Norwich University its win in the affordability contest.
Richard Anderson and Robert Best
Affordability contest juror Richard Anderson, left, consults with Stanford University’s Robert Best during the affordability contest walk-through.
Stanford University stayed within the Decathlon’s budget criterion
Stanford University also stayed within the Decathlon’s budget criterion, earning the full 100 points for the affordability category.
The Kentucky/Indiana team’s home
The Kentucky/Indiana team’s home was also constructed for less than $250,000, capturing all of the available points in the affordability contest.
Santa Clara University’s house
Santa Clara University’s house won the comfort zone contest.
Earthen clay on the interior of the wall helps keep the bedroom cool
A coating of earthen clay on the interior of the wall behind the bed helps keep the bedroom cool by absorbing and releasing moisture based on indoor humidity levels.
An in-ceiling hydronic system embedded in the plasterboard
An in-ceiling hydronic system embedded in the plasterboard and barely visible in the home helps keep interior temperatures comfortable in the Santa Clara University team’s home.
Missouri University of Science and Technology’s house
Flat-plate solar collectors on the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s house helped it tie with six other teams for first place in the hot water contest.
Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology’s solar hot water system
Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology’s solar hot water system consists of evacuated tubes on an innovative mounting system.
Scott Kollwitz of the Kentucky/Indiana team
Scott Kollwitz of the Kentucky/Indiana team conducts a hot water draw.
The University of Calgary’s Team Alberta home
The University of Calgary’s Team Alberta home was another that used evacuated-tube collectors to meet its water-heating needs.
Stevens Institute of Technology shared first place in the appliances category
Stevens Institute of Technology shared first place in the appliances category with four other teams.
The University of Southern California shared first place in the appliances category
The University of Southern California shared first place in the appliances category using standard, off-the-shelf models.
Nick Jensen of Santa Clara University
Nick Jensen of Santa Clara University explains the strategic location of the washer and dryer to Solar Decathlon visitors.
Stanford University’s appliances
Stanford University’s appliances made the grade for first place.
Team Capitol DC hide the washer and dryer from view
Team Capitol DC used a sliding wall to hide the washer and dryer from view when not in use.
Ana Toledo of the Stevens Institute of Technology team
Ana Toledo of the Stevens Institute of Technology team prepares a meal for the home entertainment contest.
Team Ontario’s house
The sloped exostructure of Team Ontario’s house accommodates a flush-mounted PV array.
The houses were connected to the village grid for the remainder of the homes’ construction and for the competition.
Once teams passed the necessary inspections, their houses were connected to the village grid for the remainder of the homes’ construction and for the competition.
Team Austria’s Philipp Klebert,
Team Austria’s Philipp Klebert, center, celebrates with his teammates.
Team Austria captured first place in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Team Austria captured first place in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Team Austria’s unique curtained home
Team Austria’s unique curtained home captured first place in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte took home the Solar Decathlon People’s Choice award.
The Solar Decathlon 2013 teams
AIR House from the Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
AIR House from the Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
Students from Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University
The Ecohabit house
UNLV’s DesertSol house
South-facing PV awning
Students from UNLV
Team Capitol DC's Harvest Home
The ECHO house
Motorized shades function automatically
Team Ontario
UrbanEden students at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Walter Kohn
Raymond Neutra
Jakob Doppler and Volker Loeser
Team Austria house
Norwich University wins in the affordability contest.
Richard Anderson and Robert Best
Stanford University stayed within the Decathlon’s budget criterion
The Kentucky/Indiana team’s home
Santa Clara University’s house
Earthen clay on the interior of the wall helps keep the bedroom cool
An in-ceiling hydronic system embedded in the plasterboard
Missouri University of Science and Technology’s house
Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology’s solar hot water system
Scott Kollwitz of the Kentucky/Indiana team
The University of Calgary’s Team Alberta home
Stevens Institute of Technology shared first place in the appliances category
The University of Southern California shared first place in the appliances category
Nick Jensen of Santa Clara University
Stanford University’s appliances
Team Capitol DC hide the washer and dryer from view
Ana Toledo of the Stevens Institute of Technology team
Team Ontario’s house
The houses were connected to the village grid for the remainder of the homes’ construction and for the competition.
Team Austria’s Philipp Klebert,
Team Austria captured first place in the 2013 Solar Decathlon.
Team Austria’s unique curtained home
Students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

With the creative design power of approximately 3,000 university students from 19 universities, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is nothing short of awe-inspiring—presenting modern solar house designs that push the envelope for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Although the focus of the Solar Decathlon is designing functional, small houses—each house must be 600 to 1,000 square feet and must have working plumbing, electricity, and appliances—the key purpose is to provide an education for both the participating students and the general public on the benefits of clean-energy products and efficient house designs. As part of this education, the houses must be able to demonstrate the energy-efficient and renewable energy systems commercially available today.

Students and their advisors use their imaginations and research to incorporate innovations into their houses—at their campus, over the course of two years. The houses are then disassembled and shipped to the Solar Decathlon site. Once there, the students are given about eight days to reassemble the house.

During the nine-day competition, the houses are tested for various efficiency measures and scored by DOE staff and experts from associated industries. The teams also conduct public tours of their houses on the weekends that flank the main week of the Solar Decathlon.

My first exposure to the competition was at the second Solar Decathlon in 2005, when I had the opportunity to tour the houses as a member of the public. In 2013, for the first time, the Solar Decathlon left the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., for a sunny site in Irvine, California. And this year I took on a professional role, reviewing the solar-electric system designs and inspecting the electrical systems during the houses’ construction.

Determining the Winners

The Solar Decathlon includes 10 contests, each worth 100 points and scored either by a task completion, monitored performance, or a jury evaluation. (More in-depth coverage of each contest and the final results are available on the Solar Decathlon website; see Access.)

Architecture

A jury of professional architects evaluates each team’s architectural approach, including architectural elements, overall functional design, lighting, inspiration, and documentation. The jury looked for elements such as scale and proportion of room features, connections between the indoor and outdoor living spaces, and linking of various house elements, for example, incorporating the PV array into a shade structure.

The AIR House from the Czech Republic’s Czech Technical University won the architecture competition with its clean-lined design. The house was built using primarily wood, including the load-bearing structure, wood-fiber thermal insulation, façade, and furniture. The spacious deck that is adjacent to the main entrance allows occupants to easily incorporate outdoor features into the living areas.

With a design similar to the box-in-a-box AIR House, the L-shaped Ecohabit house from Stevens Institute of Technology came in second place. A green roof covers a portion of the house, providing insulation while aiding in rainwater collection. The PV system uses solar shingles to help the array blend into the structure. These types of integrated features, along with an energy management system that monitors weather patterns and energy consumption habits, helped the team meet the design philosophy of a house that “cohabits” with its occupants.

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