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SOLAR DECATHLON V
This year, 19 compact solar homes were assembled in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., from five countries across four continents.
Reported by Christina Birchfield
Photography by Jim Tetro, U.S. Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon (unless otherwise noted)


Why should a contest in which teams of university students take two years to design and build a house matter to green building pros? Ideas: from solar-powered mobile to add-ons such as shade canopies that morph into storm shutters. How about phase-change window walls and drywall?


Decathlon V is the first in which student accomplishment out-stripped judges’ expectations. Appalachian State University’s marketing brochure/hats, for example, blew the pros away.


For the first time, affordability counted. But take jurists’ construction estimates with a grain of salt: some costly elements would be builder options in the real world. Judge Matt Hansen says pros could strip 10% to 40% from these construction costs. Though all the teams aimed for net-zero performance, only seven of 19 succeeded, partially due to rainy weather.


As usual, competitors not only built the homes, but also lived and entertained in them. Teams bathed, cooked, washed dishes, did laundry and even hosted movie nights and dinner parties. These activities added notes of realism to scores in 10 contest categories: affordability, appliances, architecture, comfort zone, communications, energy balance, engineering, home entertainment, hot water and market appeal.


Here are 12 entries from Decathlon V, chosen by our editors, each one loaded with unique and innovative ideas and design concepts.


01.2012 www.greenbuildermag.com 08

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