For this contest, each team defined a target home buyer and the jury of homebuilding professionals assigned a score based on the responsiveness to that hypothetical client. The jury evaluated the teams’ drawings, construction specifications, audio-visual presentations, and market appeal narratives, and performed an on-site evaluation of the finished houses.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ DesertSol house, envisioned as a vacation home in the Mojave Desert, was the winner of this category. Their passive solar design also incorporated rainwater harvesting for irrigation and cooling through an outdoor misting system. A southern canopy fitted with PV modules prevents the high-angled summer sun from entering the house. A retractable shade screen is also included for summer shading. These design elements, along with a combination of closed-cell, open-cell, and spray-foam insulation in the walls, ceiling, and floors, help achieve the thermal goals of the house.
One of the more unique markets identified was Team Capitol DC’s Harvest Home—a habitat for “renewal and regeneration”—that specified war veterans as their market. Besides providing interaction with the house’s energy systems and edible garden, Team Capitol DC integrated a network of activity sensors to provide physical-therapy data and to analyze living habits for energy management. After the completion of the event, the house was donated to the Wounded Warrior Homes program, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the same target clients.
The engineering contest is juried by engineers who evaluate the houses’ innovations—but not at the expense of functionality. The jury considers not only if the engineering features function properly, but if they are efficient and reliable.
Engineering contest winner Team Ontario built the ECHO house, designed for their heating-dominated Canadian climate. The wall structures use vacuum-insulation panels with an insulating capacity of about R-60—more than twice that of stick-framed homes with conventional fiberglass insulation. An integrated mechanical system provides heating, cooling, dehumidification, and domestic hot water. The house also includes a predictive shading system using weather forecasts and computer simulations to control solar gain via motorized shades located on the wide, south-facing windows in the kitchen.
Other interesting engineering applications included several innovations incorporated into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s UrbanEden house. UrbanEden uses a lower carbon-footprint geopolymer cement to replace Portland cement in its precast concrete walls. Its retractable roof-mounted solar array allows the house occupants to adjust the array’s position to provide shading or allow sunlight to the southern patio. And an innovative radiant heating and cooling system uses a single pump, along with the high-mass concrete walls and a rooftop heat exchanger, to control interior temperatures. The capillary tubes are embedded in the concrete walls as well as set in plaster in the ceiling. The tubes are plumbed to flat-plate heat exchangers on the roof to allow heat transfer for heating and cooling.
Without effective marketing, the greatest innovations and inspiring concepts can be built into a house and still be unappreciated. The communications contest judges how well the teams educated the public about their houses. All of the teams were required to develop multiple materials, including websites and an audiovisual presentation that walks viewers through the house while informing them of key features. For the on-site tours, teams were judged on their abilities to present information in different time formats based on the number of visitors present.
Team Austria won this contest. Along with their online presentations and information, they capitalized on the long entrance ramp of their house, using a series of displays to inform visitors about different aspects of the house.