Thursday, October 18, 2007

Solar Decathlon: Off the grid

The Solar Decathlon, a collegiate competition in green design, is soon to come to a close as the final judging is schedule to take place today at 2pm. Located on the National Mall, you will find a neighborhood of solar paneled homes completely self sufficient in their energy production. It is a sort of Amish space age. Each home was designed and constructed by university students and they are judged according to 10 criteria (hence decathlon) which include architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, and getting around.

Over the past two years students from a variety of educational disciplines have poured countless hours into this competition. During my lunch with the Stoltzfus clan (see story below) we were joined by two ladies from the Penn State crew, Autumn and Nelsa. They were particularly impressed with the camaraderie among the teams and the admiration for each school’s creativity and design. From them I also learned that the competition guidelines suggest the cost of the home not exceed $350,000; however many universities have gone well beyond the recommended ceiling. This is a rather large price tag for a dwelling no larger than 800 square feet. I believe the economics of green living will prove to be the largest hurdle to sustainability. Hopefully this technology will become more affordable with time and increased demand. (UC Boulder's submission pictured above)

Nevertheless, it is an inspiration to see what a can be done with solar power. The green design revolution has made tremendous progress in recent years, inching ever closer to main stream society. Perhaps these homes will become the norm in the not too distant future?!

The Solar Decathlon will be open for observation until this coming Saturday. Try to make it out there if you can!!!