2011 Solar Decathlon

by Mike Love

The 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C .was very well attended the day I visited, with a significant number of teenage groups from schools not in the Washington D.C. region. I spoke with a group from Richmond, VA and another from Roanoke, VA. The weather though overcast with passing showers did not dim people’s attitudes about the event. I was surprised by the engagement the school groups showed in asking detailed questions of the competitors in various houses… such as their reasons for competing, design philosophies etc.

Photo Credits Mike Love

The competitor’s I spoke to were extremely well prepared, either answering my questions directly, or steering me to an individual who could better address my question. I found many of the students were pursuing Engineering and Science disciplines in college in addition to the expected Architecture graduate and post grad students. Most groups had their houses set up to direct traffic along a defined path to encourage traffic flow, so the long lines kept waiting in line to a tolerable 5 minutes on average.

There were a lot of signs explaining unique features of the houses design which I found very beneficial, as well as brochures being handed out to visitors, as well as a system in which the numbers of people in the house were limited to avoid overcrowding, for which I was very grateful.

Photo Credits Mike Love

A wide range of styles were represented, with some embracing the clean industrial look to others with a very polished Marta Stewart style down to the details of linens, china and rugs. I was impressed to learn that as part of the competition they were required to actually exercise the houses by cooking meals, and running clothes washer and dishwasher accessories in addition to the air conditioning and lights. This was while they were monitored and graded by the competition’s inspectors to see how they really performed in various metrics ie: water usage, power usage, power generated, both by wind and obviously solar systems integrated into the home’s design. They really showed me both how nice as well as efficient homes can be made without excessive cost’s. In many cases the home’s were completely able to function while generating excess energy for return to the grid, as well as storing enough to run the homes systems overnight in periods of darkness or overcast weather.

Photo Credits Mike Love

My personal favorites included the overall winner from U. MD, (and no, I’m not biased, I’m from VA) designed to be on the shores of Maryland and the people’s choice winner Appalachian S. U. from Boone, NC as well as foreign attendees from China with a shipping container based home system. The New Zealand home was probably the place I most wanted for my own personal use, for being a surfer’s beach house design. Lastly, the NJ all concrete design was really unique and beautiful, even among all these wonderful designs, it stood out for it’s radical roofline and overall shape. Congratulations to all the competitor’s, you’ve all done a remarkable job and I believe will take these experiences on to greater careers. For full details of each building visit the 2011 Solar Decathlon website.

Photo Credits Mike Love

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et - October 6, 2011 Reply

Captions, please.

    Josh - October 6, 2011 Reply

    Beggars can’t be choosers; sometimes you have to take what you can get. Besides, I know when I take photos of an event like this, I don’t take a notebook and write a caption about what each photo is!

    The last line of the post says:

    For full details of each building visit the 2011 Solar Decathlon website.

    Plenty of photos and information there.

Josh - October 6, 2011 Reply

Nice pictures. Looks like some beautiful and unique designs.

Joe3 - October 6, 2011 Reply

Thank you for posting this…going to the decathlon is a bucket list item for me, maybe next year. As a beggar, I appreciate your effort.
I will spend a lot of time on the decathlon site, as I did last year, learning and planning.

Lucas - October 7, 2011 Reply

NPR did a short piece on the Decathalon and discussed a “clothes dryer” composed of pipes that ran solar heated water through them to dry clothes. Discussed times for sunny days vs. cloudy days to dry as 2 to 2.5 hours. Where I come from, they don’t need engineering degrees to figure out how to dry clothes on a sunny day….and I bet I can dry them faster than 2 hours. All of this technology is great, but we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. There are areas like water recycling and solar panels that obviously will benefit from tech innovations. However, conservation and common sense take “little” to implement. You can have your hybrid cars and gadgets. I will just use less.

Mike Love - October 7, 2011 Reply

Thanks For The Comments Everyone, Sorry I didn’t caption all the pics, I had 19 homes to visit in approximately 3 hours… but since I have an 8 MP camera I also shot all the signage, external displays etc to let me get it all in… I shot 550 MB of pics total. If there is a particular shot you want info about I’ll happily give you what I can from memory. Oh and Joe3, the decathlon is not next year, I was told this is a bi-annual event so it won’t be back next year, not until Oct 2013. In regard to clothes dryers, Lucas… I’d keep in mind that was done by the NZ team to gently dry wetsuits ( which tend to degrade in heated dryers and or solar exposure on a clothesline and get funky in plain air drying )

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